#SUNDANCE: “CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH”
By Mr. Will Wong
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