Cha Cha Real Smooth Drama

SXSW Review: ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’

March 18, 2022Ben MK

It's common knowledge that girls mature faster than boys. So why then are most male-centric coming-of-age movies set during high school? In Cooper Raiff's sophomore film, Cha Cha Real Smooth, the twenty-something actor, writer and director casts himself in a coming-of-age story about a recent college graduate struggling to figure out what his next step should be. As he soon discovers when he falls for an older woman, however, he still has much to learn about life, love and relationships.

22-year-old Andrew (Raiff) is a sentimental soul. At the age of 12, he professed his love for a woman he encountered at a friend's party, only to be heartbroken when she turned him down on account of their age difference. Fast forward a decade, and Andrew hasn't changed all that much. Although he's just finished college, his dreams of getting a job at a non-profit organization have been put on the back-burner, as he moves back in with his mom (Leslie Mann), stepdad (Brad Garrett), and younger brother David (Evan Assante). Then, one day, Andrew meets Domino (Dakota Johnson), a single mother whose autistic daughter Lola (Vanessa Burghardt) happens to be classmates with David. Almost instantaneously, Andrew and Domino forge a connection that makes it seem like they're soulmates. But will the age gap between the two of them once again lead Andrew to heartbreak? Or will the pair be able to make their relationship work, despite the external pressures trying to pull them apart?

The result may sound like your typical romantic drama. But although Cha Cha Real Smooth flirts with a few tried-and-true genre tropes, its ultimate emotional payoff isn't exactly what you might expect given the film's initial meet-cute. Instead, this sincere ode to unrequited love proves as heartwrenching as it is heartwarming. And when it comes to relationships, it doesn't get much more cathartic and true-to-life than that.

Cha Cha Real Smooth screens under the Festival Favorites section at the 2022 South by Southwest Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 48 min.

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