Cooper Raiff has a title problem. On the positive side, he’s great at making movies. In his follow-up to the sweet and endearing but unfortunately titled Shithouse, his new movie–Cha Cha Real Smooth–is even more sweet and endearing and wonderful, even if the movie title doesn’t exactly scream “must see.”
It doesn’t scream edgy frat house comedy, either, so I suppose he’s trending in the right direction.
Cha Cha Real Smooth won the Audience Award for U.S. drama because of course it did: it’s easily the most accessible, mainstream, and likable film of the slate I saw (of course, there are plenty I didn’t see).
Written by, directed by, and starring Raiff, the movie follows a young man who is meandering through life after college, unsure of what to do. But he’s good at drinking and partying, so he’s found a niche as party host at the bat mitzvahs of his younger brother’s classmates. There he meets and befriends Domino (Dakota Johnson) and her autistic daughter.
Raiff plays a similar character to the one he did in Shithouse, a well intentioned, awkwardly likable guy with a few notable flaws. It may very well suggest that Raiff is a one-trick pony on the acting front, but the good news is that he’s very, very good with that one trick. He has surprisingly great chemistry with Johnson, too, who delivers one of the best performances of her career.
More importantly, Cha Cha Real Smooth just makes you feel really damn good. Funny, moving, and just swirling with likable vibes, it’s hard to find fault with anything at play here. Thoroughly enjoyable, it’s an indie film with mainstream attributes, and was easily among the best Sundance had to offer–and an early contender for one of the best movies of 2022.
Even if the movie title implies otherwise.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.