June 20, 2022

SCREEN | Dakota Johnson Plays It 'Cha Cha Real Smooth'

"You don't even know who you are yet."
Cooper Raiff Leslie Mann Brad Garrett | Cha Cha Real Smooth | Apple TV+
Picturestart / TeaTime Pictures
S#!%house writer/director Cooper Raiff stars as a charming 22-year-old bar mitzvah DJ in his sophomore coming-of-age indie comedy, the unfortunately titled Cha Cha Real Smooth. Raiff continues to explore themes of young adult immaturity and misplaced romance as a recent undergraduate who (understandably) falls for a troubled young mother, an irresistible Dakota Johnson (also a producer), raising her autistic daughter played by a winsome Vanessa Burghardt who is also neurodivergent in real-life.

Johnson is absolutely captivating and vexing as a seductive but very messy New Jersey woman both seeking and avoiding commitment. How she and an extroverted Raiff go back and forth teasing a possibly inappropriate and extremely ill-advised affair holds our attention throughout without ever going down needless melodrama. The 25-year-old Raiff as a filmmaker builds a full world of interconnected personal relationships and history through amusing montages of countless bar mitzvah dance party sequences.

Burghardt is fantastic as an introverted but self-assured teenage loner dealing with being bullied. Around the small but mighty cast, Leslie Mann and Brad Garrett fill in ably as Raiff's mostly stable but worrying bipolar mother and his very gruff stepfather.

Raiff and Johnson craft a comforting family dramedy about feeling lost at different ages in life. Its fresh portrait of Generation Z anxieties about less than appropriate adult relationships should be very cringe-worthy but comes off as mostly sweet, affectionate, and earnest in its depiction of complicated feelings and emotions.

Cha Cha Real Smooth is available to stream on Apple TV+.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Moveable Fest / Polygon

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