© 2022 91.9 KVCR

KVCR is a service of the San Bernardino Community College District.

701 S Mt Vernon Avenue, San Bernardino CA 92410
909-384-4444
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Click Here To Check Current Inland Empire Traffic Conditions

'Cha Cha Real Smooth' is a great calling card for actor-writer-director Cooper Raiff

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

The romantic dramedy "Cha Cha Real Smooth" was a hit with audiences at this year's Sundance Film Festival and also a hit with distributors. It sold for $15 million to Apple TV+. Critic Bob Mondello says "Cha Cha Real Smooth" is a great calling card for its young, multi-hyphenated filmmaker, as in actor-writer-director Cooper Raiff.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Andrew, having finished college without a clue as to what's next, is reduced to sleeping on a cot in his little brother's bedroom and working a humiliating fast-food job...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH")

COOPER RAIFF: (As Andrew) So you just want, like, chili on the corn dog?

MONDELLO: ...Which makes taking his 12-year-old brother, David, to a friend's bat mitzvah kind of a minefield.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Did you get a job yet?

MONDELLO: Happily, he's resourceful.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH")

RAIFF: (As Andrew) Your daughter asked me the same question, and I don't have a great answer. But you don't have a party starter here tonight, so that is my job, and it'll be free of charge.

MONDELLO: His brother's table is easy to motivate, especially as young David hasn't gotten up the courage to talk to his girlfriend but can dance with her.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH")

RAIFF: (As Andrew) I have a question. Do we like the song called "Funkytown"?

MONDELLO: But single mom Domino and her daughter, Lola...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH")

DAKOTA JOHNSON: (As Domino) We shouldn't go and dance, should we?

VANESSA BURGHARDT: (As Lola) We definitely should not.

MONDELLO: ...Aren't getting up. So Andrew, who's played by filmmaker Cooper Raiff, takes them on as a project.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH")

JOHNSON: (As Domino) That is very sweet, but she won't dance. It's OK. Lola's autistic. That's why she's working on her cube at the bat mitzvah party.

RAIFF: (As Andrew) Is that hard?

JOHNSON: (As Domino) Yeah, the - it's really hard. I can't do it for the life of me, but she's really good at it.

RAIFF: (As Andrew) I meant the...

JOHNSON: (As Domino) I know what you meant. Nope. I mean, sometimes - not because of her.

RAIFF: (As Andrew) I'm sorry. I think I could get her on the dance floor, though.

JOHNSON: (As Domino) I will give you a thousand dollars.

RAIFF: (As Andrew) Like, you'd bet me a thousand dollars?

JOHNSON: (As Domino) No, I'd just give it to you.

RAIFF: (As Andrew) OK, well, that's no fun. How about I...

MONDELLO: Lola does dance, Domino is charmed, and Andrew gets swarmed on the bat mitzvah parking lot by Jewish moms. As David tells their mom...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH")

EVAN ASSANTE: (As David) They said he made sure everyone had a perfect night, and they need a designated party orchestrator.

LESLIE MANN: (As Andrew's Mom) Andrew, this is so fun.

RAIFF: (As Andrew) You think?

MANN: (As Andrew's Mom) Yes.

MONDELLO: It'll also bring him into frequent contact with Domino and Lola, and a relationship develops - one that's complicated.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH")

RAIFF: (As Andrew) Do you have a husband?

JOHNSON: (As Domino) I have a fiance - Joseph. He's in Chicago.

RAIFF: (As Andrew) He's not Lola's Dad, right?

JOHNSON: (As Domino) No.

MONDELLO: As a writer in this and also in his first film two years ago, Raiff displays a gift not just for character and dialogue, but for structure. Twelve-year-old David, 22-year-old Andrew, 32-year-old Domino, Andrew and David's 40-something mom are each grappling with moments of inflection in their lives, and Raiff blends their stories with a cleverness that I guess I'm just going to have to stop being surprised by. He delights in showcasing performers, especially Dakota Johnson's Domino, who is luminous.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH")

JOHNSON: (As Domino) I feel very comfortable with you. I don't know why, but I do.

MONDELLO: It's in playing Andrew, though, that Raiff shines. The character is funny, relatable, ingratiating, sincere almost to a fault, all of which evidently reflects the filmmaker himself. He's told interviewers that "Cha Cha Real Smooth" tracks with his own experience in his early 20s, and he's only in his mid-20s now. Presumably, Raiff's more driven in real life than Andrew. You don't get two films produced in three years during a pandemic without pushing pretty hard, but he makes puppyish vulnerability enormously appealing, and he's made "Cha Cha Real Smooth" smooth as can be.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FUNKYTOWN")

LIPPS INC: (Singing) Well, I talk about it, talk about it, talk about it, talk about it. Talk about, talk about, talk about movin'. Gotta move on. Gotta move on. Gotta move on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.