Chris Rock has never had trouble getting people riled up with his stand-up. With his latest movie, "I Think I Love My Wife," Rock's ready to do the same thing with his film career.
"When I'm on tour, I always get people coming up to me later on, 'Me and my husband saw your show and we had a fight afterwards,'" he says. "Or 'Me and my boyfriend broke up.' Or 'Me and my girlfriend had sex great after.' The show always sparks something, but I never had a movie that did that. So hopefully this movie gets people juiced up."
For most viewers--especially couples--the movie likely will do just that. Directed, starring and co-written by Rock, the film is a more comedic take on Eric Rohmer's 1972 French drama "Chloe in the Afternoon." Rock plays Richard Cooper, a married suburban businessman who, while going through a midlife crisis, finds himself tempted by an attractive and aggressive old friend (Kerry Washington).
Rock says Cooper's dilemma is a universal problem for both men and women.
"No matter who you're with, no matter how happy you are, you're always going to see somebody or speak to somebody that you find attractive," he says. "I don't care who you are. If you don't, you're just dead. It's just trying not to act on it."
But stopping yourself from consummating that temptation isn't everything, he says.
"Ultimately if you have a secret [and still don't take physical action], you're kinda cheating," he says. "You and someone know something that your wife doesn't, you're going down a slippery slope. It's weird. Cheating's so weird. It's like there's 10 degrees of murder but only one cheating. Murder, aggravated assault, aggravated manslaughter, vehicular all these things."
Of course, cheating is only one reason couples split up, something that Rock says happens so frequently that it provides an opportunity for anyone who is interested in someone who's married.
"To wait a marriage out almost seems smart to me," he says. "If I was single and I was interested in a married woman, I wouldn't pursue her, but I would keep tabs on the relationship. Chances are "
Honing his skills
For the first time, Rock had an acting coach on set during "I Think I Love My Wife," and he says that he's come a long way since his directorial debut, 2003's "Head of State."
"I shot jokes in 'Head of State,'" he says. "This time I shot a movie. And I cared just as much about the stuff that wasn't funny, if not more, than the stuff that was funny."
He also was setting out to put a humorous spin on movies made famous by that auteur of adultery, Adrian Lyne, who directed "Unfaithful," "Indecent Proposal" and "Fatal Attraction."
"People talk about [Lyne movies] when they're done. More so than probably any director," he says. "People talk about [Steven] Spielberg movies and Spike Lee movies and whatever, but they talk about the movie. After an Adrian Lyne movie you talk about the issue at hand, you talk about the situation, cuz you're kinda imagining yourself in that situation. Every couple goes, 'If he offered me a million dollars for you ' People get right into it."
Yet Rock says that he doesn't come face to face with the kind of temptations to cheat shown in "I Think I Love My Wife" as much these days since he rarely tours.
"I'm 42. I don't really hang out like I used to hang out," he says. "And I don't really tour that much. I tour every three, four years. So I'm about due. I'm not hanging out with Justin [Timberlake]."
But he still hears stories from friends experiencing similar issues as Cooper, who hears every excuse in the book from his wife as to why she doesn't want to have sex. The worst Rock's heard? A woman once told a friend of his that she couldn't have sex because "I'm too awake."
The movie may indeed be a wake-up call to some couples and will spark a reaction in both men and women. So should the movie come with a disclaimer? Rock has a thought:
"Not responsible for what happens to your relationship after."
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times