Title – Cha Cha Real Smooth (2022)
Director – Cooper Raiff (Freshman Year)
Cast – Cooper Raiff, Dakota Johnson, Vanessa Burghardt, Leslie Mann, Brad Garrett
Plot – Struggling to find his purpose in life, 22 year old Andrew (Raiff) begins a new job as a Bar Mitzvah party host where he comes into contact with Domino (Johnson) and her autistic daughter Lola (Burghardt), starting a friendship that will change his life forever.
“I’m sorry to be brutal”
Review by Eddie on 26/09/2022
Purchased by Apple for their streaming service after a significant showing at the Sundance Film Festival this year, where it won the audience award for U.S Dramatic Feature and also was nominated for the coveted Grand Jury Prize, writer/director/star Cooper Raiff’s breakout effort is very much a feel good film that feels eerily similar to such ventures like Garden State or Little Miss Sunshine, making it a pleasant experience without being much of a must-watch.
Following the exploits of the aimless Andrew (played by Raiff), in his early 20’s without much in the way of plan or ambition, Cha Cha Real Smooth explores his ventures into the world of being a Bar Mitzvah party host, a new role that will lead him to a life changing relationship with Dakota Johnson’s breezy Domino and her autistic teen daughter Lola (a nice turn from Vanessa Burghardt, stealing many of the films biggest laughs).
It’s a familiar set-up and one that never tries to reinvent the age-old American indie quirky rom-com dramedy rulebook and while it’s nice not everything that happens in Cha Cha leads to the outcomes one might expect, Raiff does struggle to give his critically noted film the wow factor that would’ve made it really leap out at the audience with a major hold-back also coming in the fact the writer and director decided to cast himself in the lead role.
While not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, based off this effort one must ask the question of Raiff being the most suitable performer to bring Andrew too life and while he tries in earnest to have the same easy going charisma and awkwardness as say a Zach Braff or John Krasinski, Raiff struggles to really make us fall in love with Andrew and his slightly off the boil performance makes it hard to believe someone like Domino would begin to have feelings for such an aimless and robotic figure.
Proving once more that it’s not always best to direct oneself in a role designed as a star vehicle, it’s easy to see how much more notable and above average Cha Cha may have been had it managed to really make the character of Andrew come alive on screen and while the film is always easily digestible and handles a few heavy subjects with smarts and sensibilities, it’s hard to find too much of note in this adequate if note entirely earnest affair.
Final Say –
There are laughs and dramatic beats at play here that ensure Cha Cha Real Smooth is more than watchable but Cooper Raiff’s festival darling never does enough to warrant the hype with hope the director can move onto more of a prominent role behind the camera rather than in front of it from now on out.
3 inappropriate song choices out of 5