I Think I Love My Wife (2007)

The movie is an erratic, noisy, and anxious paean to masculine desire. In a word, it's all about dick.

I Think I Love My Wife

Director: Chris Rock
Cast: Chris Rock, Kerry Washington, Gina Torres, Steve Buscemi
Distributor: Fox
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2007-03-16 (General release)
It's a grown man's horror movie.

-- Chris Rock, Regis and Kelly (13 March 2007)

Chris Rock's decision to remake Eric Rohmer's 1972 comedy, Chloe in the Afternoon, suggests the two films have something in common. They do share some manifest themes, including middle-class/midlife restlessness, men's self-serving cluelessness, women's alluring mysteriousness. Like the original, I Think I Love My Wife presents a not-so-happily married man, here Richard (Rock), caught between his glorious wife Brenda (Gina Torres) and luscious obsession-object Nikki Tru (Kerry Washington). Again, the two women are arranged to form a common moral dilemma for the man: will he stray or stay?

Still, the movies aren't exactly the same, starting with the shift of emphasis in the titles. Rock and longtime cowriter Louis C.K. have refocused the male's anxiety to suit a U.S. market: Richard worries about his feelings and needs incessantly, especially concerning his "possession," the wife. That he's not feeling precisely in control of his property is suggested in the updating of the marriage: this one, unlike Rohmer's, has produced children, Kelly (Milan Howard) and a prop-baby still in diapers. The kids take up Brenda's time and energy, and make her extra-intimidating, as she can handle all situations where dad occasionally looks incompetent (he can't handle the diapering so deftly as mom).

Brenda not only manages the house and the kids' cultural context (she's going to join Mocha Moms, she announces, in an effort to provide her children with playmates of color, as they live in white Westchester), but also maintains a regular dinner menu suited to his tastes and looks fantastic at every moment. The camera looks down on them as they lie side by side in bed, untouching. "How can my wife not have sex with me," he wonders in voiceover, "And then send me out into a world with so many beautiful women? It's like dropping me into the ocean and asking me not to get wet." Poor Richard.

To make his situation slightly less pathetic --or maybe it's more pathetic -- I Think I Love My Wife delivers to Chris Rock Fan expectations. Richard marks his blackness by way of frequent n-word jokes and broadly race-based comedy. He also makes clear his own fretful, voracious appetite regarding women: strolling through the park of his imagination, he comes on to every beauty who comes his way: "Would you like to have sex with me?" ("Yes!") or again, "Can I bite your ass?" (for $1000, anything is possible). The movie is an erratic, noisy, and anxious paean to masculine desire. In a word, it's all about dick.

This point is made manifest when, in an effort to jumpstart his sexual relationship with Brenda (with whom he has not had sex in months, a condition for which they are seeing a therapist), Richard takes Viagra. He gets it from his compulsively philandering coworker at the bank, George (Steve Buscemi), who has been advising him to drop the so-far-no-sex-flirtation with Nikki and stick with the wife. Following a nice dinner, Richard pops a pill, tucks in the kids, and approaches the bedroom, where he finds Brenda, pajamaed and snoring (at which point "The Look of Love" scritches off the soundtrack). His gigantic erection lasts for more than four hours. Cue ambulance sirens and general chaos, wherein Richard is strapped onto a gurney and a paramedic sticks a needle into his penis.

The sequence provides repeated alternating shots of the huge erection and Richard's horrified face, all as predictable as the scene where Nikki, dressed in lace lingerie and killer heels, asks him to rub lotion into her perfect back (guess what happens with that lotion bottle). The gag is premised on Rock's usual business, honed over years of standup, talk-show hosting, and previous movie roles, an often entertaining mix of insecurity and cockiness.

In this version of that routine, Richard imagines freedom from his routine in the form of bad-girl Nikki. Every time she appears on screen, she's smoking cigarettes, showing cleavage, inviting Richard to rethink his baked-chicken-every-night existence. She invites Richard to partake in her trouble -- inspiring gossip at his office, making him miss appointments, convincing him to accompany her to DC, where she needs to collect a favorite sweater from her ex's apartment. The ex, Teddy (Michael K. Williams), shows up unexpectedly, threatening violence, their scuffle drawing the attention of a pair of cops who proceed to beat Teddy down. Richard and Nikki scamper off, at which point he accuses her of putting him in danger and making him miss yet another crucial appointment. And yet, Richard's face reveals both relief not to be that stereotypical "black man" and desire for the excitement that comes along with the stereotype.

This tension is I Think I Love My Wife's most interesting point. Richard can't resolve it -- he can't be the action movie tough guy or the self-satisfied buppie. Instead, he remains in flux, not a bad place to be, but apparently nervous-making. He explains himself to himself incessantly, his voiceover framing the film so that neither Nikki nor Brenda has a life beyond his view of himself. He sees them both in terms of what they can offer him, how they make him feel: where Nikki makes the NYC Auto Show fun (they look at Porsches and play video driving games, her faultless body pressed up against his), a second visit to the same show with Brenda includes the kids in a stroller and close study of the minivans.

Though Nikki must remain elusive to be desirable, Brenda must remain available to be frustrating. Richard describes his tedium to himself as the difference between pre-marriage Brenda ("I can't wait to suck your dick!") and post-marriage Brenda ("I can't wait for you to come home and see these drapes!"). Still, in all Richard's scenarios, women want him: Brenda is ever ready to forgive him whenever the plot calls for it, just as Nikki pursues him incessantly, insisting, despite a series of incidents that suggest otherwise, that they could be "really happy together." It is, again, all about Richard.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.