One of 2022’s biggest breakout hits no doubt will be CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH. Written, directed by and starring Cooper Raiff, the heartfelt Dramedy about a 22-year-old named Andrew who strikes an unlikely bond with a young mother, Domino (Dakota Johnson) and her daughter Lola (Vanessa Burghardt). This all set of course in the world of the Bar Mitzvah circuit.
It was our honour to chat with Raiff about this Film, which took the Audience Award in the Dramatic category at Sundance earlier this year. It possesses a rare magic to it that so compassionately takes us into the world of these characters. You don’t forget a Film like CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH and its people.
We ask Raiff about the genesis of the Film and whether or not it is autobiographical.
Raiff: “It’s a very personal movie. None of it’s autobiographical, but all of it is. It’s based on feelings I’ve had, experiences I’ve had, people in my life. It’s always difficult taking things that are personal to you onto a screen. You’re not just trying to have this cathartic thing, you’re trying to communicate to an audience.”
“The genesis of it is that I wanted to make a Movie about a young mom of a disabled daughter. I started pitching those two characters to people and they were like, ‘That’s not a Movie. That’s like two Characters.’. Then I thought of this other character and thought of this idea to tell the story through the lens of the person I knew best in the world, this 22-year-old dummy. I needed a way for them to keep coming into contact with each other and then the Bar Mitzvah circuit idea came in.”.
We ask about what struggles Raiff faced getting something so personal to him to the screen, and also the process of getting Dakota Johnson to sign-on as Executive Producer, in addition to starring as Domino.
Raiff: “Her Producer met her first, Ro Donnelly. I pitched her those four elements, and I pitched her the title CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH, and she told Dakota about it. And we all met, the three of us the next day, and it was night time for Dakota, she was in Greece, about to film The Lost Daughter. And I pitched her this Character and I told her how much I love her as a Performer and how much I really wanted to collaborate with her.”
“A big struggle was that the character of Domino is kinda based on my mom. Lola‘s in a way based on my sister. My sister’s disabled. She’s not Autistic, it’s more severe. She has a condition called Holoprosencephaly where she can’t walk or talk and I really wanted to make a Movie about her. This is what I’m talking about. The struggle of something so personal. I was going to make this Movie about my actual sister and I realized she would’ve been a very terrible Actress. She would’ve looked into the camera the whole time. So what I wanted to communicate was that bond.”
“The best moments of the Movie are when Vanessa Burghardt who plays Lola – watching her audition tape, it just triggered something in me where I started crying so hard, because I knew immediately she was reading with her mom, like her mom was behind the camera. I don’t know why I knew, but I could tell she was frustrated at one point. She was frustrated with her mom. It made me laugh and want to cry and that bond is what I wanted to make the Movie about.”.
Vanessa Burghardt delivers a breakout performance here, in what is her Feature Film debut.Raiff tells us about tackling the topic of Disability in his Film.
Raiff: “Vanessa said that Lola’s a person before she’s a poster for Autism. Something I really care about is that it’s important to respect that we are different. But there’s this line in the Movie where Andrew asks Domino, ‘Is it hard?’ to Lola being Autistic, and she says, ‘Yeah, but not because of her’. That is a key thing with people with disabilities. It’s really harsh. But it’s not hard because of this Disability, it’s hard because of the world we’re living in makes it difficult. And it’s not accessible in many ways. People are idiots. I think it’s important to show that embracing it is really easy.”.
After raves on the Festival Circuit including Sundance, SXSW and more recently the Tribeca Film Festival, Raiff reflects on all the accolades.
Raiff: “It’s been surprising and so emotional and nice. Hearing you talk about it, it gives me chills and I really feel so happy to be talking to you about it.”.
We ask Raiff what’s next?
Raiff: “I’m shooting a Hockey Movie this Fall called THE TRASHERS, based on a True Story about this dad named Jimmy Galante (David Harbour), who gifts his 18-year-old son a Hockey Team, and his son becomes the President of the Team and the story ends with the dad in federal prison. It’s really personal to me and I can’t wait for people to see it!”.
See our Chat here:
CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH arrives June 17, 2022 on Apple TV+.
A new adaptation of Jane Austen‘s PERSUASION is on its way starring Dakota Johnson and Henry Golding. Need I say more? SOLD. See the new Trailer below. Carrie Cracknell directs.
Living with her snobby family on the brink of bankruptcy, Anne Elliot is an unconforming woman with modern sensibilities. When Frederick Wentworth—the dashing one she once sent away—crashes back into her life, Anne must choose between putting the past behind her or listening to her heart when it comes to second chances. Adapted from the Jane Austen novel.
CAST: Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis, Richard E. Grant, Henry Golding, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Mia McKenna-Bruce, Ben Bailey-Smith, Yolanda Kettle, Nia Towle, Izuka Hoyle
By far my favourite Movie of ’22 thus far. I saw CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH at Sundance where it won the Audience Award and haven’t forgotten about it one bit. Here’s the new Trailer!
Fresh out of college and without a clear life path going forward, 22-year-old Andrew is stuck back at home with his family in New Jersey. But if there’s one thing that belongs on his nonexistent résumé, it’s how to get a party started, which lands him the perfect job of motivational dancing at the bar and bat mitzvahs for 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. Cooper Raiff writes, directs, and stars alongside Dakota Johnson, Brad Garrett, Leslie Mann, and newcomers Vanessa Burghardt and Evan Assante in this tale of unconventional love that brims with emotional honesty.
“Cha Cha Real Smooth” premieres Friday, June 17, 2022 on Apple TV+.
AM I OK? is a touching Comedy and an ode to female friendship.
The Film follows inseparable Los Angeles best friends Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno). When Jane’s new promotion requires her to move to London, Lucy confesses her long-held secret: She likes women. In the lead up to their impending separation, we follow as Jane prepares for her big move and Lucy searches for her first sexual experience with a woman.
What sets AM I OK? apart is that it depicts the coming-of-age of two women in their 30s. Co-Directors Stephanie Allynne and TigNotaro along with Screenwriter LaurenPomerantz have created a brilliant Comedy that flawlessly captures friendship, love and self-discovery.
It’s refreshing to see a coming-out story for a 30-something. Lucy’s journey is endearing and Johnson knocks it out of the park. She approaches Lucy with a delicate fragility that guides her along in her sexual awakening. She shares a genuine chemistry in scenes with Kiersey Clemons, who plays her romantic interest and co-worker. Clemons gives a strong performance as the indecisive Brittany. And Mizuno gives a superb performance as the compassionate and headstrong Jane, who appears to have it all together, but is harbouring her anxieties within after she is given a opportunity to go overseas on a promotion.
The Screenplay gives us these two separate stories, while keeping Lucy and Jane‘s friendship at the forefront. This works because Johnson and Mizuno have such a palpable chemistry that feels entirely organic. Additionally, the Supporting Cast bring impactful comedic performances. Molly Gordon plays the outgoing Kat, a co-worker of Jane’s, who just irritates Lucy. And Notaro does double duty with a hilarious cameo.
AM I OK? screens virtually at Sundance: Premiere: Jan. 24 at 4PM EST
Second Screening: Jan. 26 at 10AM EST (available for 24hrs)
Writer/Director/Actor Cooper Raiff is at Sundance with his third Feature CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH, performing all three duties with equal dexterity. What he’s crafted here is sure to be one of the biggest breakout hits of the Festival. The Film is a sensitive, beautiful and touching coming-of-age story about a 22-year-old man named Andrew, still figuring life out after his girlfriend goes off to Barcelona.
When we meet Andrew, he moves back in with his mom (Leslie Mann), stepdad Greg (Brad Garrett) and little brother David (Evan Assante). He works a mundane job at Meat Stick, a Corndog shop, and after attending a Bar Mitzah with David, his charm makes him a hot commodity with all the local Jewish moms, and he soon finds himself with a hosting gig. He meets Domino (Dakota Johnson) and her daughter Lola (Vanessa Burghardt), who is on the Autism spectrum and finds himself striking a real connection with the two. Though she is further along in life than he, Andrew finds himself falling for Domino (and she for him too), although she is engaged to be married to Joseph (Raul Castillo). He finds himself at a bit of an impasse figuring it all out and where he fits, as life is about to pull him potentially in several different ways.
Raiff does a superb job in his acting, writing and direction, giving us a full portrait of Andrew. He is a brother, a confidante, a boyfriend and though he is frustrated at times how things aren’t going in his favour or that he hasn’t put it all together yet, we never lose sight of his good heart. He views life with an observant understanding. This is balanced perfectly by elements of humour, lightheartedness and undercurrent of bittersweet emotions which Andrew experiences. This level of care and detail doesn’t just stop at Andrew. We see those around him for who they are and are asked what they want.
This Ensemble of Actors gel together just perfectly. Johnson, whom also serves as Producer, builds upon her impressive catalog of work here as Domino, giving us a quiet chaos and her chemistry with Raiff is electric even if ultimately their relationship is on platonic terms. Mann is effective as Andrew‘s supportive mother, even if his disapproval of her partner Greg provides several of the Film’s most memorable jokes. Promising young talent Assante brings out a nurturing warmth in Andrew, winning us over. And of course, the casting of newcomer Burghardt really punctuates how they got it all right with this Film casting an Autistic actress – a really fantastic on-screen debut that educates as much as it entertains.
This empathic journey of growth proves to be a rewarding one that delivers the laughs as much it is good for the soul, and we’ll be thinking about for some time. Beyond ecstatic for the world to get to know this Film.
CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH screens at Sundance as follows:
PREMIEREJAN. 23 4:45PM EST Available Until Jan. 23 7:45PM EST
SECOND SCREENING JAN. 25 10:00AM EST Available Until Jan. 26 10:00AM EST
Elevation Pictures x Mr. Will want to give Readers a chance to win a Digital Download of TIFF ’19 selection, OUR FRIEND! This stars Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson and Jason Segel!
After receiving life-altering news, a couple finds unexpected support from their best friend, who puts his own life on hold and moves into their family home, bringing an impact much greater and more profound than anyone could have imagined.
See the Trailer:
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment x Mr. Will want to give Readers a chance to win a copy of acclaimed THE HIGH NOTE on Blu-ray™!
The High Note follows a superstar singer (Tracee Ellis Ross – who shows off her own vocals for the original songs in the film) and her personal assistant (Dakota Johnson) as they both aspire for more despite the industry trying to keep them in place.
See the Trailer:
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Tracee Ellis Ross and Dakota Johnson star in THE HIGH NOTE! Check-out the new Trailer!
Set in the dazzling world of the LA music scene comes the story of Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross), a superstar whose talent, and ego, have reached unbelievable heights. Maggie (Dakota Johnson) is Grace’s overworked personal assistant who’s stuck running errands, but still aspires to her childhood dream of becoming a music producer. When Grace’s manager (Ice Cube) presents her with a choice that could alter the course of her career, Maggie and Grace come up with a plan that could change their lives forever.
Also a joy chatting again with CP24‘s Kelly Linehan this morning! Thanks for tuning-in!
Informative and fun segment Will!! We’re on Festival Street tonight and off to a film tomorrow. Hope to see you around town Handsome! You’re always in the heart of all the media excitement. pic.twitter.com/SIZEnlLlxL