Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Brian De Palma’s Passion, based on the French thriller Love Crime, has us recalling other American remakes of foreign-language movies.
I Think I Love My Wife (2007)
To some, it must have seemed counterintuitive of Chris Rock to attempt a remake of Love In The Afternoon (also known as Chloe In The Afternoon), Éric Rohmer’s 1972 classic about the problems of a dissatisfied bourgeois Frenchman contemplating marital infidelity. In fact, the pairing makes perfect sense: Unlike so many other cut-and-paste translators of foreign material, Rock—who directs and stars, working from a script he wrote with Louis C.K.—takes on Rohmer’s original text like he’s covering a canonical rock or soul number, giving it the spin of his own artistic personality.
An odd duck within the French New Wave, Rohmer was a conservative Catholic whose Six Moral Tales (Love is the sixth) chiefly concerned upper-class values under attack. Rock, for his part, makes the genius move of reinterpreting Rohmer through the lens of African-American class anxiety. Both he and his screenwriting partner are working well within their wheelhouse. Just as C.K.’s primary comedic topic has become working-class whiteness thrust into upper-echelon situations, Rock’s great topic, from 1997’s Bring The Pain onward, has been the collision between wealth and “realness” in African-American culture—the degree to which middle- and upper-class black people become coded as “not black enough.”
That conflict is integral to I Think I Love My Wife, which casts Rock as a New York investment banker and father who, despite his happy marriage to teacher Gina Torres, finds his eyes beginning to wander. The temptress figure here is Kerry Washington, whose character (aptly named “Nikki Tru”) is considerably more complicated than Rohmer’s Chloé. She’s not just an attractive woman from the past; her unhinged behavior carries with it a hint of “ratchetness,” the sense that she is “truer” to some essential blackness that Rock’s businessman has forfeited in order to achieve success in a predominantly white world.
Most of the time, Rock and C.K. wisely keep this element at a subtextual level, preserving the original’s problems of middle-aged maleness—so acutely diagnosed by Rohmer—while productively complicating them with the question of racial (and racist) expectations on African-American marriages in the 21st century. If I Think I Love My Wife has any notable flaw, it’s that it exhibits too much ambition. By taking on more than the original film, Rock creates more of a muddle than a masterpiece. But given the stakes involved, how could it be anything but?
Availability: I Think I Love My Wife is available on DVD, which can be obtained through Netflix’s disc delivery service, and for rental or purchase through the major digital providers.