Though rightly regarded as one of the best and most provocative stand-up comedians, Chris Rock has had a difficult time in the movies, partly because he can't really play anyone other than himself, but mostly because the potent themes of his stage act have never made the transition. How odd, then, that Rock and co-writer Louis C.K. would look to 1972's Chloe In The Afternoon, the last of Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales, to find the material for what's unquestionably his most personal film to date. Though hampered at times by Rock's limitations as an actor and a director, I Think I Love My Wife stays faithful to the spirit of Rohmer's original, grappling honestly with the uncertainties of settling down and the temptations that lurk outside even the most stable marriages. Given the blessings of a good wife, two healthy children, and a beautiful home, it takes some courage for Rock to throw all of those things into question, but he comes away with a frank assessment of what it means to be a man.
As the only black investment banker at a Manhattan firm, Rock has parlayed his success into an all-too-comfortable upper-middle-class existence with wife Gina Torres, an elementary-school teacher devoted to family. Rock's main problem is that he and Torres have stopped having sex, so whenever he's on the streets of New York, his eyes start to wander, even though he has no intention of cheating on his wife. The temptation gets stronger, however, when Kerry Washington, the gorgeous former flame of an old friend, shows up at his office, ostensibly for a job reference. Soon enough, he's lunching with Washington every afternoon and fighting the urge to take their newfound friendship to the next level.
Much like a Rohmer film, I Think I Love My Wife features a lot of talk, but the most compelling observations come from inside Rock's head, not from his conversations with Washington or Torres, who are both a little one-dimensional. The choice for Rock is pretty plain—stay faithful or fall prey to temptations—and the women exist primarily as options, not real people. However, there's truth in the dilemma: As Rock puts it, people who talk about living in the moment are short-sighted, because your actions have consequences that affect you 50 years down the line. One of the film's key revelations is that his resistance to having an affair comes as much from wishing to maintain his lifestyle (the high-paying job, the nice house, the kids) as from loyalty to his wife. Why sharp observations like that one would need support from, say, a bizarre 10-minute comic interlude about Viagra, doesn't make much sense. But given that Rock's previous efforts would likely focus entirely on such lowbrow distractions, Wife is an encouraging step in the right direction.