Cha Cha Real Smooth REVIEW – A Feel-Good Spin

"Everybody clap your hands. Clap, clap, clap, clap your hands."

Cha Cha Real Smooth
Cha Cha Real Smooth

Oftentimes, we look at age gaps as insignificant to the experience of love. If someone in their 20s wants to be with an older person in their 30s, why not? Both are consenting adults, there’s desire and affection, so why can’t it work? As we saw with The Worst Person in the World, an age gap means different phases of life. The older person is ready to settle down, get married, have children, and the younger person isn’t quite there yet. We believe that compromise and love will lead the way, and that it’s different for every couple, yet we can’t deny that compromising would mean giving up certain life experiences that you might want to have.

This is the situation Andrew (Cooper Raiff) finds himself in when he meets Domino (Dakota Johnson) and her daughter Lola (Vanessa Burghardt) at a bar mitzvah. Lola’s autistic, so it’s harder for her to really warm up in social situations, but somehow, Andrew manages to click with her, and Domino watches on with a glimmer of interest. She’s not the only one who’s caught on to Andrew’s infectious personality. The rest of the moms get together and agree that they want him to be the party starter, since he’s so adept at getting these youngsters to dance and have fun.

Andrew’s just graduated from Tulane University, and is looking for jobs while staying with his mom in her New Jersey home. When Domino offers him a gig to sit for Lola, he accepts so that he can spend more time with her. They get on so well, but there’s a problem: Domino’s engaged. So there’s lots of conversation and mild flirtation, as we look on and wonder if they’ll cross the line. Andrew clearly wants to, and Domino seems interested, yet the signals are all over the place.

Both Raiff and Johnson are electric to watch. Raiff’s triple-hatting for this one, as writer, director and star. He builds the story and interactions between these characters around the bat mitzvahs and sitting jobs, and allows it to unfurl in a very natural, organic way. Cha Cha Real Smooth is the furthest thing from a paint by numbers movie, making for a compelling watch. Johnson does a stellar job in creating that juxtaposition with Raiff’s character – Andrew’s like this eager puppy dog, so optimistic and full of life, while Domino’s in a different season altogether. She can’t follow her desires and think merely of herself; her life’s lived in relation to others, and he isn’t at that stage of life just yet. She looks at him and sees the joy of her 20s, of a life she lived long ago.

As I meander my way into my mid 30s, I understand acutely how she feels. It’s difficult to close a chapter of your life and embrace another, but it’s necessary for growth. We also shouldn’t rush through these chapters when we’re not quite done with them. We’re so eager to leapfrog our way through life that we forget to stop and smell the roses. Andrew’s always looking to fall in love, to find someone he can be with and make a life together, yet he’s not quite done with his 20s and what he needs to do now. But no worries, he’ll cha cha himself to some much-needed clarity.

The best thing about Cha Cha Real Smooth? It sells us a love story, but gives us something much better.

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Cha Cha Real Smooth
No sophomore slump here for Cooper Raiff, who's created a film that cha chas its way into our hearts.