I SWEAR I didn’t plan this, but it happens to be the opening night of the Chicago Critics Film Festival tonight, for which I am a programmer, and our opening film, Cha Cha Real Smooth, just got a new trailer. But since it HAPPENED, I am here to say that if you’re in the Chicago area, you can get tickets here and join us, and writer/director/star/obnoxiously youthful person Cooper Raiff, to see the film and a Q&A with Raiff after. Anyway, the trailer sort of does Cha Cha a disservice, because it makes it look EXACTLY like the kind of movie Sundance goes nuts for, only to fall apart under scrutiny outside the heady festival atmosphere.
The concept is a bit twee—Andrew is just out of college and aimless and begins working as a “party starter” for his little brother’s classmates during their bar and bat mitzvahs—but Cha Cha has the guts to get awkward and melancholy and be both hopelessly romantic and clear-eyed about the difficulties of relationships beyond the falling-in-love phase. It’s a more mature work than the log line indicates, and Raiff is great, as is Dakota Johnson as Domino, a young woman with a half-grown daughter. For a film that talks about soul mates a lot, Cha Cha isn’t pie-eyed or twee at all. Sundance has a habit of breeding these hot-house films that don’t stand up in the real world, but once upon a time, Cha Cha would have been a classic summer sleeper, the perfect counterprogramming for blockbuster season. Now, I look forward to everyone catching up with it on streaming when it hits Apple TV+ later this summer. Or you can see it early in Chicago tonight. Shameless self-promotion concluded!