REVIEW: Post college struggles well portrayed in ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’

No, this isn’t a behind the music look at the song that was drilled into your head during high school dances.

Andrew (Cooper Raiff) has just graduated from Tulane University in “Cha Cha Real Smooth” and is hoping to visit his girlfriend in Barcelona before the end of the summer, but still seems a bit lost. Not long after returning home, he goes to a bar mitzvah with his younger brother David (Evan Assante) and meets Domino (Dakota Johnson) and her daughter Lola (Vanessa Burghardt).

Andrew ends up being a hit at the party, with people liking how he was able to get people out on the dance floor and have fun. He’s then hired as a party starter for other bar mitzvahs. As he continues to work at the bar mitzvah events, he begins to get closer to Domino, gives advice to his brother who has a crush, and connects with Lola, who has autism, all while navigating what’s next in life.

The post-graduation period can be a rather aimless time when one gets done with college. But while it’s a moment in one’s life where a person may not be moving forward, there can still be plenty of memorable and meaningful experiences.

Raiff, who also wrote and directed this picture, manages to capture that point in one’s life pretty well. Andrew is a college grad with a good head on his shoulders and seems confident, but doesn’t know his next steps, and can appear naive and immature at times.

There’s a lot of truth in the character and the film itself, making it a relatable watch. The film is strengthened by this, as well as the humor and drama, both driven by the various character interactions featured.

This is especially true with the main relationship in the movie between Andrew and Domino. Andrew is a new graduate in his early 20s while Domino is in her early 30s and has a fiance.

Courtesy AppleTV+

While they’re at different stages in life, they don’t just have a connection, but full on chemistry. Their banter, flirting and ability to be vulnerable with each other gives the movie the majority of its emotional power.

The rest of the movie is quite endearing, though, too. Andrew being able to get through to Lola and being a good older brother to David is genuinely crowd pleasing material.

In addition to a strong script, the film’s characters also work thanks to the cast. Raiff is truly charming on screen, as he manages to capture the optimism and wanderlust of post-college life.

Johnson steals the show in many scenes, though. The way she portrays her character’s conflicting emotions about Andrew and where she’s at in life, does a lot in the movie’s favor.

The cast is well-rounded, too, with good performances from Leslie Mann, as well as the two younger leads, Assante and Burghardt. The latter, who has autism herself, is especially important in bringing an authenticity to the role.

It should be noted that “Cha Cha Real Smooth” isn’t the deepest film, as it can seem light on conflict and intrigue at times. However, the picture is big on heart and has enough feel good moments and captures post-university life well enough to be worth seeing. 4 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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