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Film / I Think I Love My Wife

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I Think I Love My Wife is a 2007 romantic comedy film directed by and starring Chris Rock, based on Éric Rohmer's 1972 French film Chloe in the Afternoon. Rock also teamed with Louis C.K. to write the screenplay adaptation.

Richard Cooper (Rock) is a New York executive with an ostensibly perfect life. However, despite his loving wife Brenda (Gina Torres) and their two children, Richard is bored with his sexless marriage. Enter Nikki Tru (Kerry Washington), an old friend who wants to reconnect. Faced with Nikki's youth and sensuality, Richard starts to have a crisis of fidelity with regards to his comparatively mundane home life. Their friendship seems innocent enough to Richard, but the last man to date Nikki wound up psychologically obliterated by the experience. Will Richard be next?

I Think I Love My Wife provides examples of:

  • All Women Are Prudes: In-Universe, Richard believes this of his marriage, complaining that Brenda never wants to have sex with him unless it's for having a baby. Averted when Brenda is talking to her friend Jennifer about her fears of infidelity.
    Jennifer: Did you find anything on his computer?
    Brenda: Just a little Asian porn, nothing serious.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Discussed in detail. The film is basically about the slippery slope of continuing a friendship with known unresolved sexual tension, which becomes increasingly dangerous when Richard and Brenda haven't had sex in a very long time. Richard genuinely loves his wife and ultimately doesn't go through with the affair, but the sexual tension and emotional dependence he had with Nikki definitely speaks intelligently about this trope.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Very much defied. Richard and Brenda are happy except for the no sex part. They both love each other, their life, and their kids, but Richard is sexually frustrated and bored out of his mind by the mundane patterns they've fallen into as of late.
  • Betty and Veronica: Brenda is Richard's Betty, being is kind, loyal, and loving wife while Nikki is his Veronica, being the fun, sensual, outspoken old friend that he's sexually attracted to.
  • Black Bra and Panties: What Nikki's wearing when she and Richard decide to carry out the affair. It is Fanservice galore.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Richard playing with his daughter while wearing his tie around his head.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Not the entire film itself, but in the final act, Brenda finally expresses some interest in having sex with Richard...but by now, Richard has decided to carry out the affair, so he just pretends to be asleep when she seductively tries to nudge him. He's already become emotionally dependent on Nikki, to some extent, so he rejects the advance in favor of sleeping with Nikki. Luckily, though, he doesn't go through with it in the end and runs home to Brenda, who is now over whatever made her uninterested in sex.
  • Cutaway Gag: Used sparingly, but the most memorable one is when Brenda calls him about the wall sconces and Richard tells Nikki the difference between dating and marriage in the following cut:
    Brenda: (seductively over the phone) I can't wait to suck your dick.
    Richard: And then after you get married, you get calls like:
    Brenda: (seductively over the phone) I can't wait for you to get home and see these drapes!
  • Dirty Old Man: Richard's co-worker and best friend, George, played by Steve Buscemi, who regularly sleeps with the younger women around the office.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Nikki is in her underwear and a pair of high heels. Richard gets distracted.
    Nikki: You like my shoes?
    Richard: You're wearing shoes?
  • Drowning My Sorrows: After her ridiculous fight with Richard over chicken, Brenda is seen pouring alcohol alone in her kitchen.
  • Emasculated Cuckold: Nikki's ex-boyfriend Teddy beats up Richard because he assumes Richard slept with Nikki in his apartment.
  • Everyone Can See It: Nearly everyone in Richard's office picks up on the Unresolved Sexual Tension between him and Nikki, to the point most believe he's having an affair.
    Richard: I'm not fucking her.
    George: No, she's fucking you; you just don't know it.
  • Exposed Embarrassing Purchase: When Richard is at a store, the cashier shouts that Richard is purchasing a condom, much to the latter's dismay.
  • The Final Temptation: At the end of the story, after being gone for a long time, a seemingly reformed and engaged Nikki shows up in Richard's life again. But then it's made clear she came back in order to try to resolve their Unresolved Sexual Tension once and for all by proposing to actually sleep together before she gets married. Richard almost goes through with it, but backs down at the last second.
  • Foreign Remake: The film is an American version of Chloe in the Afternoon.
  • A Friend in Need: Nikki is introduced coming back to Richard's life looking for his help, as she's fallen into hard times and needs his reference to get a job. But then she keeps asking for his help again, and again...
  • Fun Personified: Aside from being his Lust Object, the reason Richard enjoys Nikki's company is due to her being a legitimately fun person to talk and hang out with, as she's constantly making him laugh or doing interesting things.
  • Gilligan Cut: Richard insists he's not flying to Washington. Gets cut to him arriving in Washington.
    Richard: You must be out of your fucking mind if you think I'm getting on a plane to Washington, D.C., to go to some guy's house to get your shit! (cut) *the plane arrives in Washington DC*
  • Gold Digger: Nikki, possibly. After she and Richard stop talking for a long spell, Richard finds out she's engaged to a very well-off guy and when Richard asks if she loves him, she pretty much admits she doesn't. She just wants stability and insists maybe the relationship will grow into love later, but her claim doesn't sound genuine.
  • Heroic BSoD: A subversion. Richard stupidly listens to Nikki, starts a fake argument with Brenda, and goes to the club where Nikki is supposed to meet him. He has some drinks, dances, smokes some weed, and acts a fool, only for Nikki to send one of her friends to tell him she ran off with a guy named Compassion and isn't coming after all. Richard realizes he just risked his marriage over someone so flaky and inconsiderate, races home, and manages to salvage things with Brenda. He then cuts off contact with Nikki for what appears to be several weeks or months.
  • Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: When Nikki asks Richard if he's Happily Married, he hesitates a bit before answering, which she points likely means he's lying.
    Nikki: You happily married?
    Richard: Yeah, I'm... I'm happily married.
    Nikki: No, you're not. You didn't say it right.
    Richard: Okay, how was I supposed to say it?
    Nikki: Oh, I don't know. But you're not supposed to think about it. I hear ice cracking.
  • Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis: While Richard is a Happily Married man who loves his family and has a successful, he also can't help but feel somewhat bored with how mundane his life has become. So when New Old Flame Nikki appears into his life, he easily falls for her Toxic Friend Influence.
  • Hurricane of Puns: When Nikki insists Richard come with her to go clubbing, she tells him to just start a fight with Brenda and act like he's storming out. Richard apparently couldn't think of anything legitimate, so he goes off about Brenda serving him chicken too much. Brenda is understandably baffled, but the "argument" is hilarious given Richard's responses.
    Richard: I'm goin' out of my finger-lickin' mind eating all this chicken! Chicken hawks don't eat this much chicken! I can't take it anymore!
    Brenda: Where are you going?!
    Richard: To get some DUCK!
  • Hypocrite:
    • George cheats on his wife constantly, which Richard overlooks, but jumps down Richard's throat the second he thinks Richard is sleeping with Nikki. Richard rightfully calls him out on it.
    • Nikki thinks Richard is this when he criticizes her for marrying a man who doesn't truly make her happy, as she believes he's also married to a woman who doesn't make him happy, and she sees her marriage as following his footsteps of settling down into a "boring but stable life".
  • Ignore the Fanservice: After his Viagra accident, Richard's internal monologue claims he's done being horny and paying attention to sexy women. Cue an Imagine Spot where a random sexy woman in her lingerie doing a Supermodel Strut as she walks past him in the train station and he manages not to look.
  • Imagine Spot: Richard has a moment thinking about what he'd do if he returned to being a single man again. Naturally, none of what he does would happen in the real world, but he still thinks about having wild sex with random pretty women.
  • Intimate Lotion Application: Nikki coyly asks the married Richard to put lotion on her back while she's clad in only her underwear, as an obvious prelude to their affair. He gets so distracted by the task that he ends up gripping the bottle too hard and accidentally causing it to squirt, much to her amusement.
  • Jerkass: It's extremely difficult to decide whether Nikki is simply a troubled, immature woman who uses Richard as an emotional crutch since she can't find anyone single she likes or if she's just a shallow, opportunistic narcissist who enjoys his doting nature and wants to take advantage of him for her own selfish needs. However, given that she is about to marry a man she doesn't love so she'll be financially stable and yet still is about to cheat with Richard, it's likely Nikki is more of a manipulative Jerkass than a troubled girl.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: George is a cheating bastard... but he's not wrong about Nikki.
    George: I can fuck a girl, go home, kiss my wife on the mouth, and sleep like a baby. You, however, got emotions. You're like Captain Save-a-Ho. You like to be needed and that bitch knows it.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Richard almost gives in to having sex with Nikki, but he comes to his senses just in time before he's done anything more than kissing and goes back to Brenda.
  • Leg Focus: When Nikki is putting out a cigarette in her short dress, Richard's gaze (and the camera) focus on her legs as she does so.
  • Lust Object: Nikki has been the object of Richard's sexual fantasies even back during the days when she was just his girlfriend's friend. As a sexually frustrated adult, he's even more tempted by her, despite loving his wife.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: It's ambiguous to both Richard and the audience how much Nikki is actively flirting with him or not. Something she's being The Tease and seemingly taking advantage of his attraction to her so he helps her, others she seems to actually treat him as a guy friend with whom she can discuss her love life.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: When Richard still has a Raging Stiffie from the Viagra he took, Richard calls George for advice, but Brenda overhears the conversation and assumes he's having phone sex with a prostitute.
    Richard: '[[in the phone with George] I've cum like three times and I'm still hard and it's all because of you!
    [coming up behind Richard]'' Who the hell are you talking to?
  • Mood Motif: The use of "Tired of You" by Foo Fighters. It's used the first time to show Richard enjoying seeing another part of life with Nikki (even though it quickly starts to get him in trouble) and then is used during the scene where he almost carries out the affair with Nikki, but doesn't.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Nikki is frequently under Male Gaze camera work and wears plenty of skimpy clothing, being in only a bra in three different scenes.
  • New Old Flame: Nikki is an old friend of Richard, out he was incredibly attracted to but never got the chance to hook up with. Now she's back in his life, with their Unresolved Sexual Tension dialed up to eleven, and in a fragile moment in his marriage.
  • Nice Guy: Richard actually is a good husband and father, and a good friend to Nikki too. The only problem is that Nikki knows that Richard is a Nice Guy and exploits it to her own advantage, relying on him more and more as the days past so she can eventually ensnare him in an affair.
  • No Accounting for Taste: For once, this is actually averted in a romantic comedy drama. Richard, while certainly not handsome, is a nice, intelligent, funny, successful guy, so it actually makes sense that Brenda fell in love with him and it makes sense that Nikki is attracted to him. It directly contrasts something like Adam Sandler's attempts at rom-com-drams, where he is actually a jerk or immature yet still pulls incredibly gorgeous women who realistically wouldn't have anything to do with him. The audience actually gets to know Richard over the course of the film, so it isn't too outlandish that women as beautiful as Gina Torres and Kerry Washington are interested in him when he actually is a fleshed out character with desirable traits.
  • No Indoor Voice: The cashier keeps being loud when Richard is trying to (discreetly) purchase some condoms.
  • Noodle Incident: The breakup between Nikki and Nelson (played by an uncredited Orlando Jones). Whatever it was, it was messy enough to require Nelson to get extensive therapy, and seeing her again clearly shakes him up.
  • Not What It Looks Like
    • After taking a Viagra pill given to him by George, Richard frantically calls George late at night when his erection won't subside. Brenda walks in and mistakes it for a phone sex conversation.
      Brenda: Are you talking to some...little bitch? Are you talking to some whore? In my house?!
      Richard: No, it's just George.
      Brenda: George? (Beat) What kind of down low shit is that?
    • Richard tries to invoke this when Nikki's ex Teddy walks in on them in his apartment singing to the stereo while Nikki has her blouse open. Teddy doesn't buy it.
  • One-Hour Work Week: Surprisingly averted. The incidents with Nikki mostly occur during Richard's lunch hour. Nikki is shown as unemployed and later as a hostess, which is why she has more free time than he does for their excursions.
  • Only Sane Woman: Brenda is a no-nonsense voice of reason, who is unimpressed by Richard's becoming more irresponsible and immature thanks to Nikki's influence.
  • Raging Stiffie: After a romantic date with Brenda, Richard is under the impression they'll finally break their Sexless Marriage and takes some Viagra... but when he gets into his bedroom all he finds is Brenda fast asleep. Cue him trying to sleep on the bed while having a full erection. And when 4 hours pass and he still has the erection, he ends up needing medical attention.
  • Satellite Love Interest: We do see a bit of Brenda, but it's mostly in short glimpses. We know she is kind, but very no-nonsense, and that's about it. The film never delves into why she stopped having sex with her husband, as being "tired" is a rather unfair and flimsy excuse if it's been going on for months like it appears to be. The story stays firmly focused on Richard and Nikki rather than spending time with Brenda and the kids.
  • Say My Name: When Richard finally comes to his senses and flees Nikki's company without committing the affair, Nikki screams his name in frustration.
  • Sex Goddess: When Richard and Nikki are discussing what she's skilled at, she enjoys messing with him by insinuating her best "skills" are in bed. He never gets the chance to find out.
  • Sexless Marriage: What drives the conflict in Richard's life. He and Brenda have stopped sleeping together, with the latter only citing being "tired" as the reason, and Richard is also relatively bored with his happy but mundane life. Then Nikki comes along and brings a heap of Unresolved Sexual Tension with her.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Nikki casually changes shirts while Richard is in the same room, apparently thinking nothing of it while he obviously stares googly-eyed.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Richard repeatedly insists they're not together when he's seen with Nikki, asserting that they're just friends. Even though there's no actual sexual activity involved, very few people believe him. There is apparent Unresolved Sexual Tension.
  • Shout-Out: Richard works at the law firm Pupkin & Langford. Shout-out to The King of Comedy.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: After Teddy attacks Richard in the apartment and they narrowly escape, Richard goes off on Nikki about putting them both in danger and she panics and kisses him in apology. He kisses her back for a moment, but then stops her before it can go any further.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: Nikki's smoking habit is used as part of her Femme Fatale image.
  • Something Else Also Rises: When Nikki asks Richard to put lotion on her back, he accidentally squirts some out of the bottle.
  • Stupid Sexy Friend: Richard's relationship with Nikki embodies this, as he is constantly turned on by her even at the most casual interaction, such as her casually telling him on the phone she's going to take a shower. It's heavily implied that most of the time, she's being The Tease on purpose.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Fortunately, Richard doesn't go through with the affair in the end. The whole point of the film is a realistic portrayal of how easy it is to let a friendship with sexual tension get out of control and almost ruin your life. Richard is a genuinely good, funny guy and loving father and loving husband who learns a damn good lesson about being responsible even if he isn't completely happy in his marriage.
  • Taking Advantage of Generosity: Nikki's requests for Richard's help become bigger and bigger as time passes, to the point that it starts to interfere with both his personal and professional life, as she's basically visiting him at work every day. George is convinced she's maliciously taking advantage of Richard's kind nature, and even Nikki herself admits she feels safe relying on him because she knows he "doesn't want anything else from her".
  • The Tease: Nikki seems to enjoy being naturally flirtatious towards any men she interacts with. This makes Richard doubt whether she's actually coming on to him or not.
    Richard: You ever think about getting a skill?
    Nikki: Oh, I got skills. [looks him up and down suggestively]
  • Toxic Friend Influence: While at first Nikki is a breath of fresh air in Richard's monotomous life, he quickly gets aggravated by how much trouble she brings into his life, and how she influences him to become more irresponsible.
  • Tranquil Fury: Brenda is clearly when Richard comes home after disappearing all night with an obviously fake excuse, but she keeps her voice calm and talks to him in a non-nonsense fashion to him.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Nikki is a fun and attractive girl who gets herself into all kinds of trouble due to her uninhibited lifestyle.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: One scene has Nikki loudly complaining to Richard about her boyfriend falling asleep during sex, all while in a crowded elevator, with everyone else but Nikki being extremely uncomfortable by the subject at hand.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Richard and Nikki were friends who were attracted to each other in their youth, and when they meet again as adults their interactions are still filled with sexual tension, which is exacerbated by Nikki's natural sexual magnetism and Richard's sexual frustration and mid-life crisis.
  • The Vamp: Nikki, in spades. She slides back into Richard's life with an innocent request and then sets up shop basically slowly trying to ensnare him into cheating on Brenda. To be fair, she does seem to genuinely like him and care about him, but it's completely self-serving. She sees nothing wrong with the affair since Richard isn't happy and thinks that making each other happy is more important than loyalty and honesty in his marriage.
  • Wedding Ring Removal: Richard takes his ring off when he's meeting Nikki to sleep with her. When he backs off, he hurriedly puts it back on.
  • Where da White Women At?: Nikki teases Richard by asking if his wife is white because he once brought a white woman to a party with him in their younger years.