One can describe Cooper Raiff's Cha Cha Real Smooth as a coming-of-age film that is equal parts fun and real.
The film centers around a college graduate who returns home and has to face the hardships of life while navigating friendships, relationships and unusual jobs. The Sundance hit, which took home the Audience Award, is a fascinating and sentimental watch, filled with great performances.
Note: This article reflects the writer's opinions.
Cha Cha Real Smooth review: A heartfelt film about love and life
Cooper Raiff's Cha Cha Real Smooth might look like a typically quirky indie dramedy at first glance, but closer inspection reveals much more beneath the surface. The Dakota Johnson starrer offers an impressive tonal mixture, combined with many narrative surprises, thereby turning itself into a compelling watch.
Raiff stars as Andrew in the film, a recent graduate whose main goal is to earn enough money to follow his girlfriend to Barcelona. However, viewers later learn that he is mostly aimless and is scraping funds together while working at the mall food court and living at home with his parents.
A Bar Mitzvah turns him into a party starter, quite literally, as he manages to make awkward adults get on the dance floor and do the Electric Slide. This shows Andrew in his natural state: he is a warm person who loves to laugh and enjoys making other people laugh.
As a director and writer, Raiff has done an outstanding job at making such themed events both fun and detailed, all the while capturing the nervous energy of the young as well as the old.
Andrew then meets Domino (Dakota Johnson), a single mother with an autistic teenage daughter, Lola, played by Vanessa Burghardt. Andrew's warm, happy demeanor is a stark contrast to Domino, who is bad at making good decisions, and struggles to prioritize her emotional needs.
While Andrew's attraction to Domino was always obvious, it is the friendship he shares with Lola that comes as a pleasant surprise. A victim of bullying at school for being older than her classmates, Lola finds a pal in Andrew. He treats her as an equal by engaging in her hobbies.
While he may not be the most complicated character in Cha Cha Real Smooth, Andrew's character in the films, allows others to evolve, especially the confused and uncertain ones. This endears him to viewers.
An adult in the making: Exploring the growth of Andrew
Cha Cha Real Smooth follows Andrew's unexpected friendship with Domino and Lola, which helps him put things into perspective and evolve with a much-needed purpose. The chemistry between Raiff and Johnson is easy, smooth and somewhat of a tease, but the way the two share intimate conversations makes one feel as if they too are present in the room at that given moment.
Andrew's growth in the film can be seen in the farewell conversation after he responds to Domino's feelings. However, him bawling his heart out in the car later and turning to his mother for emotional support not only makes him a relatable character but also highlights how he is an adult in the making, and might still have a bit of a child inside of him.
Andrew's experience with Domino and Lola helps him transcend into adulthood, making Cha Cha Real Smooth a heartfelt and feel-good story. The coming-of-age film is peppered with harsh truths and difficult choices centered around adulthood. Raiff's ambition to break free from the sentimental formula and forge a path of his own makes him an exciting young filmmaker to watch.
Don't forget to catch Cha Cha Real Smooth, now streaming on Apple TV+.