FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE YET TO SEE CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW.
Cha Cha Real Smooth is 24-year-old Cooper Raif’s second feature film, after the 2020 SXSW Grand Jury Prize Winner Sh*thouse. And after only two movies, I can safely say that I will go out of my way to see every production that this young auteur is responsible for, from here on out.
WHAT IS CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH ALL ABOUT?
Higher education failed to provide 22-year-old Andrew with a clear life path going forward, so he’s stuck back at home with his family in New Jersey. But if college did teach him one thing, it’s drinking and partying — skills that make him the perfect candidate for a job party-starting at the bar and bat mitzvahs of his younger brother’s classmates. When Andrew befriends a local mom, Domino, and her daughter, Lola, he finally discovers a future he wants, even if it might not be his own.
HOW FUNNY IS THIS FILM?
Raif has such a knack for authentic, hard-hitting comedy. I have not laughed out loud this much, in a live-action film, in what seems like ages. He is able to conjure this achingly awkward feeling from situations, that are much like moments you might have experienced in your own personal life before. Raif leaves little quips, mistakes, and nuances in his film that many directors would leave on the cutting room… adding such refreshingly raw humor. Life isn’t perfect like what we usually see on the silver screen and the writer/director is ever so conscious of this… allowing us as viewers to get to experience, with his characters, what it means to be human, faults and all.
In his introduction of Cha Cha (in which he also stars), Raif says that his film is simply about people learning how to love. And some audiences might be turned off by this simplicity… the film is not anchored by some grand plot or intricate narrative, rather it’s a birds-eye-view of these characters at a very specific time in their life. We are dropped into these people’s lives for just a short while and before you know it, we are no longer with them. But, what a pleasure it is to have been able to spend time with these characters while we could.
HOW IS THE CAST?
Cooper Raif anchors the film with such charisma and charm, I honestly could not take my eyes off of him. And the chemistry he shares with Dakota Johnson is electric. (I know the actress is divisive, but I think she is such a gem) You can’t help, but yearn for these two to be together and for everything to work out for them. I also have to shine a spotlight on newcomer Vanessa Burghardt as Johnson’s daughter who is on the spectrum. The scenes she spends with Cooper Raif’s Andrew in the film, are some of the very best… and they round out such a dynamic trio.
WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH?
What I love about Cha Cha Real Smooth so much, is its delicate balance of brutally honest, real-life drama and sweet, wholesome sincerity. I honestly had a huge smile on my face from ear to ear throughout the entire movie, unless I was ugly laughing or crying. We live in a time when everything seems so bleak and everyone can feel like they are against each other… it is almost revitalizing to have a movie tell it like it is, but also show such a positive outlook on life, love, and the human race.
In Sh*thouse, Raif chronicled the loneliness one feels like a college freshman. In Cha Cha, he documents life right after college… the fears, thrills, and anxieties of growing up, but also trying to hold on to that child inside of you. That in-between time one might call kidulthood. And as he continues his film career, It will be so exciting to age with Raif, to see his perspective of the world at that very moment in his life.
Cha Cha Real Smooth is a very special movie and although it’s only January, I have a good feeling it will be in My Top 10 of the Year.
Cha Cha Real Smooth does not have a release date yet.
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