The ads for CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH might subvert audiences to believe this is the next CODA. However, that is NOT what director/writer/star Cooper Raiff’s movie is. Instead, it’s a slice-of-life dramedy that has more in common with early David Gordon Green (ALL THE REAL GIRLS) and Richard Linklater (BEFORE SUNRISE). Even the number of soulmates’ conversations in CHA CHA felt inspired by Linklater’s classic.

Last night my wife and I started the FATHER OF THE BRIDE remake and switched to CHA CHA within fifteen minutes. Where FATHER OF THE BRIDE failed to capture our attention, CHA CHA had us falling in love in under five minutes.

On the surface, the film has the plot from THE GRADUATE with the recent grad, Andrew (Cooper Raiff), entangled with an older woman, Domino (Dakota). The lessons become clear as Andrew’s relationship evolves with Domino and her on-the-spectrum daughter, Lola (Vanessa Burghardt). Andrew should be enjoying his youth while not having anyone to be responsible for. That core conflict is the base for CHA CHA, and Cooper Raiff has a profound ability to make it all feel authentic.

The main characters in CHA CHA are flawed. They are not good nor bad but have made bad decisions that affect others and themselves. Roger Ebert always spoke of cinema being the empathy machine. With only two films to his name, Cooper Raiff has become an expert in portraying authentic relatable characters for audiences to care about empathetically.

At one point in the film, Domino states, “Giving your heart to somebody is the scariest, most dangerous, most perplexing thing.” I encourage audiences to give their heart to this rare genuine indie treat. It’s worthy of your time on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah dance floor.

It’s available on Apple TV+.

Aaron "Dobler" Goldstein

Aaron Goldstein is a Product Manager by day, ludicrous speed content consumer by night. He’s a LA Film School Alumni and TV Academy / Producers Guild of America member. Aaron is a proud stepparent and dad joke enthusiast.

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