In ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth,’ Cooper Raiff Makes His Own Kind of Music

Writer-director Cooper Raiff stars alongside producer Dakota Johnson in the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” streaming now on Apple TV+. The endearing dramedy follows Andrew (Raiff), a recent postgraduate who accidentally gets a job hosting bar mitzvahs for the kids in his younger brother’s class. When he meets a young mother named Domino (Johnson) and her autistic daughter Lola (newcomer Vanessa Burghardt), he finds a whole new perspective on life in his twenties.

Despite his clear confidence and charisma, it’s clear Andrew still doesn’t quite know who he is or what he wants, and “Cha Cha Real Smooth” tells the unique story of how he figures it out, with the help (or hindrance) of the people in his life. In addition to being a love story, it’s also about growing up and growing into yourself – and making peace with the way things turn out, even when they’re the opposite of what you imagine. It is a painfully-realistic, beautifully-executed rendering of life after college. It will especially resonate with people in Andrew’s age group, but can also acts as a tribute to single parents and caretakers in families with special needs. The charm of  “Cha Cha” truly seems to be in the eye of the beholder, and that’s a rare feat – a true testament to its originality.

Raiff already has a signature voice that feels important. Not only because of his age, although critics and interviewers seem to enjoy pointing out his accomplishments as relative to his young years. But instead it’s what he dares to do – or not do, telling the Financial Times he turned down Blumhouse Productions in favor of a collaborator which felt more in tune with his hopes as a storyteller.

Thank goodness. It’s a message his characters seem to send, too: be you, even when that is not who you want to be, even when that person seems to be making all the wrong choices. Andrew will figure it out, and so will you.

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