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Cha Cha Real Smooth Review | Sundance Film Festival 2022

Cha Cha Real Smooth will hit home for plenty of people who feel like they’re barely making it through, but hopefully it’ll remind them that it’s OK. 

cha cha real smooth sundance review

Dakota Johnson appears in CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH by Cooper Raiff, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

In Cooper Raiff’s directorial debut “Shithouse,” he played a college freshman who felt homesick, lonely and incapable of making friends, while everyone else seemed to be having the time of their life. It seems as if his second film, “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” is a continuation of the saga. This time, though, he’s graduated from college and has no idea what to do with his life. Who can’t relate to that?

It’s always a delight to see directors shine brighter with each film, and Raiff has done just that. If he hasn’t already, he will charm your pants off and make you fall in love with him in “Cha Cha Real Smooth.” His endearing qualities are a highlight here, while the relatable tale will strike many who are likely in the same situation.

Andrew (Raiff), 22, has big dreams, like moving to Barcelona with his girlfriend and working at a great nonprofit, but life has different plans. Instead of a Spanish adventure, he’s back at home with his family in New Jersey and working at a hot dog stand. Thanks to his natural charisma and infectious energy that come through during his younger brother’s classmate’s bat mitzvah party, it leads to a job party-starting at bar and bat mitzvahs.

At one of these soirées, he meets Domino (Dakota Johnson), and her daughter, Lola (Vanessa Burghardt). Their chemistry is undeniable, but Domino’s fiancé, Joseph, stops Andrew from getting what he wants.

The movie tackles such a relatable problem for so many 20-something-year-olds, and I’m sure those in their 30s. College will make you believe you’re on top of the world, but once you’re in the real world, it’s easy to feel stuck. But “Cha Cha Real Smooth” says it’s OK to not have it all figured out. You won’t land that perfect job right away, love might not always be on your side and you might need to go home for a little bit before you feel ready to fly.

We can all be our toughest critics – trust me, I know – but this movie reminds us that we need to be kinder to ourselves. I mean, what 22-year-old does have it all figured out anyway?

Another highlight is the chemistry between characters. Sparks fly when Andrew and Domino first meet, and even more so when he shows kindness to her autisitc daughter. As they run into each other at more parties, their budding relationship grows and we can’t help but root for them, even if we know it’s wrong. Johnson, who has such a great film presence, adds so much life to her roles. Domino, a complex woman who had a child early in life and felt like she missed out on

herself, is the person Andrew needs at this stage of his life. Even though there’s something special between them, she doesn’t want to take him away from his 20s and discover who he is. It’s a good reminder for all of us to not stop ourselves from taking risks and reaching our full potential.

Raiff also is so sweet with each of the child actors. He’s a loving big brother who helps build David’s confidence and get the girl of his dreams. He’s also protective of Lola, who is often bullied by other kids. At the bat mitzvah where they meet, he convinces her to get on the dance floor with him, and later when he starts babysitting her, he’s patient, kind and understanding.

Not to mention, he has an adorable relationship with his mother (Leslie Mann), and an incredibly sweet moment with her toward the end of the movie. But Andrew isn’t perfect. He gets a bit messy when he’s drunk, and when he can’t be with Domino, he hooks up with a friend from high school (Odeya Rush). With his second film, Raiff does a great job of developing his characters and lets us spend quality time with each of them.

Cha Cha Real Smooth will hit home for plenty of people who feel like they’re barely making it through, but hopefully it’ll remind them that it’s OK. Raiff is already standing out in his early career, and he may be one of those rare young adults who does have some things figured out. While we might not know if that’s the case, what we do know for certain is he has a bright future ahead.

Read more Sundance Film Festival coverage.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

About Cha Cha Real Smooth

Fresh out of college — but now what? Higher education failed to provide 22-year-old Andrew with a clear life path going forward, so he’s stuck back at home with his family in New Jersey. But if college did teach him one thing, it’s drinking and partying — skills that make him the perfect candidate for a job party-starting at the bar and bat mitzvahs of his younger brother’s classmates.

When Andrew befriends a local mom, Domino, and her daughter, Lola, he finally discovers a future he wants, even if it might not be his own.

Cha Cha Real Smooth played at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.