‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’ is a fun comedy about (sort of) growing up

Cooper Raiff (l) and Evan Assante Apple TV+

Immediately graduating from college into a career and owning a home is a rare privilege among millennials and zoomers, and for those who boomerang back to their parents’ home, someone in their twenties can become a second adolescence, another stage of growth in the same Petri Scale. In his second feature, writer/director/star Cooper Raiff argues that maybe it doesn’t matter that it takes a little longer to develop into your “grown-up self,” and that the awkwardness of growing up is a process no one is really done with. . Cha Cha Really Smooth — which premiered at Sundance and screened at the Tribeca Film Festival before settling on Apple TV+ — is a snuggle blanket, a sweet, crowd-pleasing comedy about coming of age in your twenties.

Directed by: Cooper Raiff
Written by: Cooper Raiff
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Cooper Raiff, Vanessa Burghardt, Brad Garrett, Leslie Mann
Duration: 107 minutes.

Andrew (Raiff) has just graduated and, like so many students in the 21st century, finds himself back under his parents’ roof. As his college girlfriend begins her glamorous adult life in Barcelona, ​​Andrew works at a counter in the mall’s food court, sharing a bedroom with his 13-year-old brother, David (Evan Assante). Andrew adores his brother and mother (Leslie Mann), and is brutally mean to his stepfather (Brad Garrett), who he says is bored and unhappy. This is a pattern with Andrew: he is a cheerful man who likes to please and entertain, but he has a certain image in his head of what happiness is, and he has trouble recognizing it in other people. Andrew believes he is an adult and strives for some sort of adult happiness, but the truth is that this insecurity between childhood and adulthood is exactly where he belongs. This is why it thrives under the specific circumstances of a bar mitzvah party, a party for kids where parents outnumber parents nearly two-to-one. He is equally charming to both groups, and after serving as an informal emcee at one of David’s friends parties, he is persuaded to turn pro.

During the trial, he meets Domino (Dakota Johnson), a mother in her early 30s, and her daughter Lola (Vanessa Burghardt), who is on the autism spectrum. Andrew clicks with them both and becomes Lola’s nanny and Domino’s friend and confidant. Andrew and Lola develop a sweet and honest friendship, and he and Domino have deep nighttime conversations. Their flirtatious chemistry is apparent, but Domino has a fiancé, Joseph (Raúl Castillo), a reliable but non-protest attorney. As Andrew settles deeper into Domino and Lola’s lives, he finds it more difficult to accept his part in it. Must he be an aimless twentysomething, seeking purpose and independence, while a life of partnership and parenthood seems ready for him?

Cooper Raiff (l) and Dakota Johnson Apple TV+

Cha Cha Really Smooth is a continuously warm film, full of characters with whom it is a pleasure to spend two hours. While Raiff’s character is sometimes a bit too flattering for a filmmaker to create for himself, Raiff’s avatar Andrew is an all-ages softboy, a non-threatening extrovert who can listen well and sacrifice himself to error. He is outspoken by nature, but his sincerity is balanced by a sharp wit that he often uses recklessly when injured, exhausted or drunk. His ability to be an asshole is the saving grace that makes him a real person rather than a made-to-order romantic lead for the 2020s. institution appears to be. She stands at a crossroads on her own long, arduous journey as a young parent who has missed the experience of early adulthood that Andrew doesn’t seem to appreciate. Domino has a better understanding of Andrew’s position than he does of hers, and the fact that his position offers a narrow view of her life is crucial to the film’s themes.

What drives Andrew and Domino’s relationship is the same quality that drives the film: feeling like you’ve known someone your whole life, even if you’ve just met. Cha Cha Really Smooth captures the comfort and confinement of suburban life, where there is no more than two degrees of separation between two people and even casual acquaintances have a long history. (It’s set in Livingston, New Jersey, although it was actually shot in Pittsburgh.) Even the most minor of characters feels familiar and essential; David’s best friend Rodrigo (Colton Osario) has all four lines of dialogue, he’s just there sometimes. And yet you wouldn’t think of removing Rodrigo from his scenes, just like you wouldn’t invite him to a family dinner or offer him a ride home from so-and-so bat mitzvah. It’s Rodrigo! the structure of Cha Chao accentuates this feeling, as Andrew works the dance floor for party after party of kids in the same class, who therefore have a huge overlap in attendance. It’s always the same kids, the same parents, and you get used to it.

The world and characters of Cha Cha Really Smooth feel real because they are slightly better than real. Unlike the mumblecore indie comedies that attempt to mimic reality by making characters less articulate, Raiff’s dialogue is nails the cadence of smart people talking, an idealized but not hyper-idealized version of conversation. You might like to think this is what you sound like when you joke with your friends or flirt with your crush or have a heart to heart with your sibling; you probably don’t, but it’s not impossible that you do. The same goes for the relationships between the characters. The rapport between Andrew and his (unnamed) mother is wonderful, but not out of reach, and if you’ve been lucky in life, you might even recognize it.

Cha Cha Really Smooth is an artifact of a middle-class white suburb, and the reflections on a boomerang child’s boredom come from a place of enviable privilege. Most of us would be lucky enough to deal with Andrew’s problems, and some might find this movie too syrupy, too neat. Still, it can be a balm for the soul to inhabit the world of Cooper Raiff, shrouded in the glow of a happy family with a base of relative comfort. It’s a place where it’s only a matter of time to become the best version of yourself, and time never runs out.

Observer Reviews are regular reviews of new and notable cinema.

'Cha Cha Real Smooth' is a fun comedy about (sort of) growing up

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