Cha Cha Real Smooth Review
Best film of 2022
Quick Thoughts - Whether you are 22 & fresh out of college, a mom that is engaged in your 30s, or in your second marriage, life is messy and love is complicated. From the opening scene, Cha Cha Real Smooth wraps you in a warm blanket that you want to stay in forever. Easily the best film of 2022 so far.
The Good - While this is only his second film, Raiff has already proven that he is a master at telling coming of age stories about young twenty somethings trying to figure out how they fit into the world. Part of this is because Raiff himself is only 25 and those thoughts and experiences are still front of mind. Often times a coming of age film puts so much effort into that central story line that the rest of the characters have no depth. In Cha Cha Real Smooth we not only get a detailed look at a 22 year old fresh out of college, but we also explore a young mom afraid of being having her heart broken a second time, a brother who wants his older brothers attention, a stepdad who wants his new family to accept him, and so much more. The really good coming of age films make a small group of people feel something special, but the great ones make everyone feel something. Since Cha Cha Real Smooth does that flawlessly, it is a film that will be enjoyed by almost everyone who watches it.
The film also perfectly touches on some heavy themes and does so in a way that doesn’t feel forced or unnatural, but instead feels genuinely authentic. Everyone is fighting their own battles and dealing with their separate issues and insecurities, which is tough on its own, but through another person into the mix and things get messy. Things don’t get messy in this film for the sake of adding tension to a storyline, they get messy because that is real life. Cha Cha Real Smooth never attempts to sugar coat any of its central storylines and how things get resolved. Instead, it highlights that in the real world the fairytale ending that we often would see in a movie is actually more nuanced in reality than is often portrayed on screen.
While often times that heavy and messy look at real life would weigh you down, Cha Cha Real Smooth does a remarkable job of tackling those topics while still making you smile. Throughout the film there are several dance scenes from bat mitzvahs that are beautifully woven into the story to lighten the mood and pivot between different central plot lines. In fact, this is probably one of the best films I have ever seen that tackles as much as it does but you spend 90% of the film feeling warm, fuzzy, and entranced by the characters and the story being told.
Some other items worth noting are the pacing and chemistry. The interwoven dancing sequences that I mentioned previously are tied in with quiet and serious moments in such a sincere and natural way that you are always keep engaged and focused. Additionally, this film doesn’t even come close to overstaying its welcome. You could see an alternate version of this film that has a runtime of two and half hours where the characters may be explored more, but you check your phone and the time a few times through. Cha Cha Real Smooth covers important ground and wraps up every storyline in just the right amount of time while also leaving you wanting more, but not too much more.
As for the chemistry, all it takes is to working eyes to recognize that the chemistry between Raiff and Johnson throughout this film is simply out of this world. Their gazes at at each other will hypnotize you and the way they play off each other’s lines and energy will give you a warm and fuzzy feeling that will last for a week. The whole movie doesn’t work if the chemistry between Domino and Andrew doesn’t work, but Raiff and Johnson are so good that it leaves you breathless and wanting a similar kind of love in your own life.
The Bad - Some will dislike the portrayal of Autism in the film and the treatment of Lola. While I get where they are coming from, I don’t think it is a problem with the film. Autism is a spectrum and Lola’s character was a portrayal of one person on one specific place on that spectrum. We can’t expect everyone on that spectrum to be represented in every autistic character on screen. Outside of that, it was a flawless film.
Rating - 100/100
Best Performance - Dakota Johnson as Domino - it should be said that the whole cast is incredible throughout this film. There isn’t one character that feels miscast or isn’t on par with the rest of the cast. However, Dakota Johnson is just on another level in this. Probably her best work in a film to date. Multiple times throughout this film there are so many things left unsaid between characters that rely on each of the actors to do some heavy lifting to move the story along. From the glisten in her eyes to the way she just ever so slightly tilts her head and cracks a smile, she is always conveying more than the words spoken. It is simply mesmerizing and when paired with a sweet, heartfelt film like Cha Cha Real Smooth, it is a an unstoppable force.
Her choice of projects and characters recently has been exquisite and I think by the time the rest of her 2022 films release, we are going to be reminded that she is one of the best in the business.
Honorable Mention - Cooper Raiff as Andrew, Leslie Mann as Andrew’s mom, and Brad Garrett as Stepdad Greg
Will I watch again - I have already watched it three times and will no doubt continue to come back to this one.
Would I recommend - Couldn’t recommend enough. Like I said previously, it has something for almost everyone.
Final Takeaways - I first saw this film at Sundance back in January and I have eagerly awaited to release of the film for half a year now. I remember falling in love with it at Sundance and thinking it was one of my favorite films I have ever seen. As the wide release got closer and closer, I started to fear that I was over-hyping the movie in my head. I can say with full confidence that it wasn’t and it really is that great. Not only is the film that good, Cooper Raiff has put himself in a category that only a few directors have for me. It doesn’t matter what the movie is, if he puts it out, I will watch it opening night. As a part of Gen Z, I can’t even begin to describe how special it is to get our first great Gen Z filmmaker on the scene. I am sure that most people won’t feel as strongly about Raiff’s work as I do, but as a 23 year old guy, I can’t tell you how much I have related to his first two films. So many studios are trying to have 50 and 60 year old people write films about what it is like to be in your 20s in 2022, but none of them actually were in their 20s in the early 2020s. Cooper has been and is in his 20s in the early 2020s. He gets it. Each generation has a set of filmmakers that make them feel seen and understood, and I am beyond glad that Gen Z has Raiff.