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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Movies with Tarek – Chicago Critics Film Festival: ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’ Review


A new up and coming actor and director, Cooper Raiff, has created a masterpiece which is both charming inspirational. Cha Cha Real Smooth is upbeat and marvelous on many levels. Raiff plays the lead role and presents his character in the most faithful and honest way depicting how life today has its challenges.

Cha Cha Real Smooth received much positive press at the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, and was the opening premiere of the Chicago Critics Film Festival. I attended the Chicago premiere and was touched by its meaningful message. As an individual on the spectrum, and an advocate for an Autism foundation, Cha Cha Real Smooth touched my heart and I know it will touch others too.

The subject of autism today is a growing trend and is still evolving. The aspect of Cha Cha Real Smooth which spoke most to me most involved being a role model. Raiff plays that role model for someone on the spectrum along with others in his life. Despite his own errors, he finds meaning in what he can do to inspire others with his attitude. Cha Cha Real Smooth is invigorating as it inspires people to find what they are passionate about.

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Throughout the film, there are moments illustrating sadness, feeling lost, or just needing a friend. I found the most important scenario in Cha Cha Real Smooth was when Raiff’s character realizes that he is not alone with his struggles. Not only can he relate to others who are also struggling, but he can help them grow and develop better self-esteem.

In Cha Cha Real Smooth, Raiff is Andrew, a young man still trying to find his footsteps while living back at his family’s home and trying to get back on his feet. He is someone that displays a freeloader attitude and has little to no motivation. That all changes at a Bar Mitzvah party. He meets Domino (played by Dakota Johnson), an introverted mother devoted to her autistic daughter. Lola (played by Vanessa Burghardt.) They build a friendship, and he becomes close with Domino and Lola. Lola starts to come out of her shell and Andrew starts to find himself to being open to serving as a role model to Lola and his own brother David (played by Evan Assante.) Andrew begins to experience more positive changes around him because he is encouraging David, Lola, and Domino. For once in David’s life, he feels he can be the guy that others go to for encouragement. He also tries to build a better relationship with his mother (played by Leslie Mann) and his step dad (played by Brad Garrett.). Cha Cha Real Smooth is filled with many wonderful scenes and realizations that are both triumphant and mesmerizing. I have not felt more touched by a film in quite a long while.

Burghardt plays her role faithfully as someone on the autism spectrum. She has the shy mindset, the habits of routine, and mixed attitudes that some may find difficult to interpret. She presents them in a polite and concise way. When she is frustrated or socially overwhelmed, she says, “I do not mean to be brutal.”

This reminded me of how many people on the spectrum struggle in social situations. Burghardt delivers a stellar performance starring as an individual on the spectrum. The film’s relationships between Andrew, Lola, Domino, and David involve transformational moments for everyone involved. Every single person has their own unique struggles. Andrew appears stuck-up at first, but then comes to realize that the people around him matter most.

Cha Cha Real Smooth reminded me that even when I am angry or annoyed at issues with my life, that it is not the end of the world. We all need reassurance sometimes. And when that reassurance comes from those who love us the most, it is especially valuable.

Cha Cha Real Smooth is a film that will make viewers laugh, cry, and feel touched. After watching it, I felt somewhat emotional because of how much Raiff’s performance reminded me of myself. I sometimes get impatient when the things I hope for don’t happen overnight which is perfectly normal. The film also provided a strong reminder that we can always find ways to help others who are struggling. I believe in being an advocate, and Raiff’s performance is a strong example of advocating for those who need some help getting back on their feet. Cha Cha Real Smooth inspired me to keep pursuing my craft as well as to be there for others.

Four stars for Cha Cha Real Smooth.

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Tarek Fayoumi
Tarek Fayoumihttp://movieswithtarek.com
Tarek Fayoumi is the creator and lead critic of movieswithtarek.com. He also contributes to Medium.com, is an approved critic of Bananameter, and a member of the Chicago Indie Critics (CIC) and Independent Film Critics of America.


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