SUNDANCE REVIEW – “Cha Cha Real Smooth”
Back in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, I put on a little movie called Shithouse which had some critical praise but I didn’t think much of it at the time. By the end of the film, I was so profoundly moved by a film, for the first time in the longest time. There was something about the way that Cooper Raiff wrote his characters that felt so naturally seamless and genuinely similar to every drunken conversation I had with peers in college. It felt honest, fresh, and relatable in a very genuine way. Needless to say, from the moment the film ended, I immediately turned my eyes to Cooper Raiff’s career and I’ve been closely watching to see what else he would be coming out with.
Luckily, it seems like most people loved Shithouse – so for his next feature he was able to obtain somewhat of a stacked cast this time around. From Dakota Johnson to Leslie Mann to Brad Garrett, the film feels like a longshot away from the scale and size of Shithouse. The film follows 22-year-old Andrew (Cooper Raiff) who has no distinct clear life path going forward, so he’s stuck back at home with his family in New Jersey. One day, after attending a bat mitzvah for his little brother, he inadvertently becoming the official party-starter and DJ for this group of moms. One mom in particular, Domino, takes a particular interest in Andrew and the two form an instant, electric chemistry with one another alongside her daughter Lola.
From start-to-finish, I was absolutely delighted by Cha Cha Real Smooth. It’s just about the sweetest movie I’ve seen in years, with a completely captivating and magnetic chemistry between Cooper Raiff and Dakota Johnson. There are some really beautiful themes here about adulthood and individuality, and it’s all expressed so fluidly through the witty and sincere dialogue written by Cooper Raiff. Just like Shithouse, this is truly such a wonderful and thoughtful screenplay that will stick with me for quite a bit of time.
One of the most frustrating things about Cooper Raiff is that he’s my age, but he’s so damn’ talented. I’m actually envious of how good he is at his craft at his age. But I’m also happy that there seems to be a definitive gen-z filmmaker who is capturing our frustrations and anxieties in a way that feels genuine. He has a very special way of relating to his audience without making it feel forced; a way of telling us he knows how much these feelings suck but how we’re all trying our best and it will all be okay one day. This film feels like a warm, embracing hug in each and every frame. So funny, heartfelt, and downright beautiful. I adored it.