Coming of age doesn’t mean that a momentous event is going to change you completely, so much that you are not the same person again. Instead, it just means that maybe you are the same old person, but you know yourself a little bit better. “Cha Cha Real Smooth” is written and directed by Copper Raiff, who also plays the protagonist, Andrew, in the film. It is the general perception of the filmmaking industry that a protagonist should not be the director of the movie, as most of the time, it leads to the performance becoming exaggerated and the narrative becoming a tad bit excessive. Actors are considered to be insecure and narcissistic beings, and people are quick to blame that stereotypical personality trait for any flaws in the film.
But in “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” Cooper Raiff creates the world around “Andrew” with so much precision that it shuns all the aspersions. The characters created by Raiff are convoluted; they don’t know what they want; they are not chasing any big dream; they are not trying to change the world; they don’t want to be billionaires; they are just dealing with life as and when it comes. They do not predetermine a notion to be right or wrong, and neither do they judge when someone does not adhere to the social norms. Sometimes their life feels like a big paradox, and sometimes everything seems so simple. Sometimes they really have a hard time coping, and sometimes doing the right thing breaks their heart. Through their lives, we understand that segregating the right from wrong might still be simple, but convincing yourself to take the correct path is the most difficult thing. Sometimes you want to live in a cocoon, nurture those delusions and confuse them with your reality, even when you pretty much know that you will have to wake up from your slumber and leave that dream behind, maybe without knowing what happens in the end.
‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Andrew has graduated from Tulane University, but unlike his girlfriend Maya, he has not decided what he wants to do. He has a few ideas, but he still hasn’t started working towards them. Andrew was quite comfortable living in his parents’ home. Time and again, he did have squabbles with his stepfather, Greg, but still, nothing was so big that he couldn’t overlook it with an insouciant shrug. Maya was going to Barcelona under the Fulbright Program, and Andrew was hoping that he would find some good non-profit to work at in Barcelona itself. He was terribly bored with his mundane job at Meat Sticks and was desperately looking for an out. Andrew decided to take his younger brother to a Bar Mitzvah party that he had to attend. The party was very dull, and even the younger lot was so reserved that they were finding it hard to make their way to the dance floor. Andrew was a sweet talker and maybe the most harmless, non-judgmental, and carefree individual that you would ever meet. Everyone left their prosaic conversations and started to groove to the music. Andrew convinced all but one girl, Lola, who had come with her mother, Domino. They had caught his eye as soon as they had entered. He went up to them and challenged Domino that if he could convince Lola to come on the dance floor, then she would have to give him $300. Andrew won the bet, and was completely smitten by the melancholic eyes of Domino. Lola was autistic, and maybe for the first time in her life, somebody was treating her as a normal person and was trying to have a genuine conversation with her instead of just feeling apologetic and sympathetic towards her situation.
Lisa, Andrew’s mother, was probably the most supportive parent a child could ever ask for. She was herself suffering from a bipolar disorder, but never did she not pay attention to both her boys. She dealt with their issues with so much affection and gave even their most trivial matters so much importance that they never felt a void due to the absence of their father. She had given her children the freedom to express themselves freely, and had conversations with them about things that generally most children refrain from telling their parents. Lisa was the biggest supporter and cheerleader of Andrew, and he knows that sometimes his mother exaggerates the situation and boasts about him to just make him happy. Andrew made his feelings and emotions very obvious and had his heart up his sleeve most of the time. He was the most pleasant and smooth-talking person that you would ever find. It felt good to be around him. People felt comfortable and at ease as he gave room for their opinions and viewpoints. He didn’t force his sensibilities upon them, and maybe that was because of the way he was brought up by his mother. He had his first heartbreak when he was still a kid, and his mother consoled him, even though she knew that it was a mere infatuation and didn’t mean anything. For her, it was more important to respect her son’s emotions and not trivialize the whole issue and make him feel that his problems were insubstantial. Andrew had inherited that maturity from his mother.
‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’ Ending Explained: Do Andrew And Domino End Up Together? What Realization Did Andrew Have?
We are so used to seeing one type of romance in films, where you either end up together, or you fall apart due to a tragedy, that in “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” you expect and hope that Domino and Andrew end up together. This film was never about them ending up together, but about getting to know oneself through each other. Andrew loved Domino from the moment he saw her, and why wouldn’t he? Through that big bright smile, she tried to camouflage those pensive eyes, and yet every time, she was unsuccessful in her endeavor. Looking at Domino, one always felt that there was something more to her, that she was hiding something, that maybe she was depressed or had an unhappy marriage, or maybe she was finding it hard to deal with the challenges and tired of putting in constant effort to raise her autistic daughter. Andrew had started looking forward to meeting her at every Bar Mitzvah party, and finding an opportunity to talk to her. He had developed a bond with Lola too, and she felt secure in her presence. Domino had a miscarriage in one of the parties, and her dress got stained with blood. Andrew helped her get out of the restroom, and dropped the mother and daughter off at their home. That night, he came to know that she had a fiancee named Joseph and that her first husband had left her. It dulls his spirit, knowing that she is already committed, but he still does not entertain the thought of backing off. Even if he wanted to take a step back, he couldn’t have done that because he was too attracted to her persona. He was mesmerized by the way she talked, the way she carried herself, the little behavioral nuances and subtleties.
That night, they became intimate, but Andrew stopped her, because he felt that she didn’t want it. Joseph, Domino’s fiancée, returns from Chicago, and it becomes inevitable to not perceive him as a barrier, because of the assumptions and preconceived notions that we as audience are accustomed to making. Andrew, too, like us, got the impression that Joseph did not treat Domino properly, and that he felt insecure in Andrew’s presence. Domino often used to act very differently when she was with Joseph, and she had made the equation very clear: they would meet when Joseph was not in town.
Andrew used to look after Lola whenever Domino had to go somewhere. On one such night, when Domino returns from a party, she tells him that she knows the things she is most scared to do will probably help her the most. Andrew thought and hoped that maybe she was talking about him and how she would justify leaving her fiancé and being with a 22-year-old. But Andrew had gotten it wrong. Domino wanted to be in a relationship with Joseph; it was just that she was scared of committing. She had Lola at a very young age, and after that, her life was defined by the stages in Lola’s life. She felt tangled in her mess. She missed that feeling when she could go anywhere, do anything, and not be answerable to anybody. That is why she had been freaking out, and the subconscious stimuli was to be reckless. She loved Andrew, but she was mature enough to understand that indulging with him would not only spoil his life, but also would do no good to her or her vulnerabilities. It was not only because of the age gap, that she felt those things. Her motive behind indulging with Andrew was not right. She wasn’t doing it only out of sheer love. It served as an escape for her and that was the issue.
They met for the last time when Andrew came to pick up his younger brother from school. It breaks Andrew’s heart when it seeps inside him that it was probably the last time he saw Domino. He had always entertained the possibility that they could have a normal relationship, and now he had to move on, because he knew that it was the right thing to do.
Andrew gets a job at a non-profit organization. He started dating Macy and moved on in his life. Though Domino couldn’t be in his life, he still had the memories, safely secured somewhere deep inside his core, just like all those beautiful times that he had spent at his childhood home. He didn’t want to go to Barcelona anymore. He told his mother that he was going to move out but would find a place nearby because he wanted to be around her and his younger brother. He wanted to drop by every other day and spend some time with them. He found solace in his roots. He told his mother that, contrary to what she believed, he had only good memories of his childhood and, if given an opportunity to alter anything, he wouldn’t change even a single thing. “Cha Cha Real Smooth” doesn’t deal with a gigantic conflict, but explores those subtleties that you experience at different stages of life. With strong performances, especially by Cooper Raiff, Dakota Johnson, and Leslie Mann, and a crisp narrative, the film is a must-watch and will surely leave you gratified.