Each year, there is a small indie film that hits the scene in a quiet manner that manages to be the sweetest, most heartfelt, and wonderful movie of the year. Last year, that film was CODA, which won BEST Picture at the Oscars. This year, that film is Cha Cha Real Smooth and guarantees to leave a big smile on everyone's face with some happy tears running down those cheeks. From perhaps the current best upcoming star Cooper Raiff, Cha Cha Real Smooth tackles some real-life emotions and romance, making this beautifully funny and charming film one of the best movie-watching experiences of the year and you can watch it on APPLE TV+ and select theaters. Highly Recommended!
Raiff's first big feature film was last year's Shithouse which explored the turbulent relationship between two people while navigating the obstacles of college. Raiff again serves as writer, producer, and director in Cha Cha Real Smooth and brings a natural quality to his performances as the nice, sensitive guy who tries to make the best of his situations. While Shithouse focuses on a tamer character and only two characters, Cha Cha Real Smooth turns up the volume on Raiff's character Andrew who is an outgoing college graduate looking for his next stage in life. What looks to be a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, turns into something much more that's full of compassion, growth, and love.
At the start of the film, a young Andrew is at a Bar-Mitzvah party and falls in love with one of the adult dancers hired to get the party started. After the party, the young Andrew politely and awkwardly expresses his love, which of course, is shot down. His mother (Leslie Mann), consoles him as he cries in the car on the way home, setting up his sensitivity to fall head over heels for people. The movie cuts to the present day, where Andrew heads home after college graduation to move in with his mother, and stepfather (Brad Garrett), and younger brother David who looks up to his brother. While working at one of those ridiculous mall hot-dog stands and trying not to get upset about his girlfriend living abroad with handsome people overseas, Andrew accompanies his younger brother to a Bar-Mitzvah.
It's here where Andrew's electric and compassionate personality turns on as he demonstrates being a great listener to everyone, and always makes sure his younger brother is having a good time. Most of these films pit siblings as mortal enemies, so it's so nice to see Raiff utilize a best friend relationship between brothers, growing up. At the stale party, Andrew manages to coax every kid and adult onto the dance floor, including Domino (Dakota Johnson) and her autistic daughter Lola. Just like in that first scene, Andrew finds himself in love once again with someone older than him that is destined to be doomed. But through Domino and Andrew's time spent together over the next few months, it's easy to see where both people are evenly love-struck with one another, even if it doesn't make sense.
Raiff keeps his character Andrew very much grounded. While Andrew is an exquisite human being to be around and is fully capable of expressing himself in a beautiful way, and even being the best big brother, he is also not above getting drunk on the job, hooking up with high-school crushes, and not treating his step-father with courtesy. It's proven he is still young and has much to learn despite being such a grown-up in other ways, such as when Domino has an emergency situation or bonding with her daughter Lola.
Raiff knocks it out of the park with his writing and character work. His performance is fresh, original and something that will inspire others. Mann's work as his mother is beyond perfection and Dakota Johnson pulls out all the strings with her emotional and fantastic approach to a modern woman. It's simply phenomenal. Cha Cha Real Smooth creates a great foundation on what it means to be in love, how to express it, and letting family know they're loved. This is one of the best films of the year and it will leave you with a big smile. You can now watch it on APPLE TV+ or in select theaters Highly Recommended!