Cooper Raiff, 25-year-old screenwriter, director and star Cha Cha real smooth, a warm hug from a new movie premiering on Apple TV+ this Friday, initially sold the project with only a vague idea in mind. For his first 10 or so pitch meetings, he recounted Vanity Fair’s little golden men podcast this week, “I was just like, ‘I think moms are cool,’ and people were like, ‘That’s not a movie idea.'” (Someone born in the humble year of 1997 had all these high profile meetings to begin with because his 2020 movie Shit, made on a micro-budget at Occidental College before dropping out to finish production, had won Best Narrative Feature at South by Southwest.) “And then at some point I had this other character which I was thinking,” Raiff continued, “who was just the person I know best, who is a 22-year-old idiot. And so I kind of put them together.
The result – after a partnership with costar Dakota Johnson’s new production company, TeaTime Pictures, founded with former Netflixer Ro Donnelly – is a loving, tender and very funny portrait of Andrew (Raiff), a college graduate who just moved in with her mom (Leslie Mann) and stepdad, Greg (Brad Garrett). He works at a hot dog stand in the mall until, during a failed bar mitzvah for a friend of his little brother David (Evan Assante), Andrew throws the party successfully, and suddenly everyone neighborhood parents want to hire him as their own party motivator. The film’s title cleverly borrows from DJ Casper’s “Cha Cha Slide,” a song and dance that has tormented us all since its release in 2000.
At one such party, Andrew meets Domino (Johnson), a beautiful and mysterious young mother, and her autistic daughter Lola, played by newcomer Vanessa Burghardt, who is autistic herself. Andrew bets Domino $300 that he can get the introverted Lola onto the dance floor, and Domino is so impressed when he succeeds that she asks him to babysit for them. Andrew supports and defends his new young friend, who is sometimes bullied by her peers, without being condescending or condescending; their relationship is warm and natural.
The relationship between Andrew and Domino, meanwhile, unfolds with quiet but crackling intensity. Domino is engaged to Joseph (the handsome Raúl Castillo, from Looking at fame), a serious-looking lawyer who is often on business trips. Domino clearly adores her daughter – when Andrew asks her if being a mother is hard, she acknowledges it can be, sometimes, but ‘not because of her’ – but because she gave birth so young, Domino cries too a youngster she never really could have. The promise of childlike freedom and momentary escape presents itself to 22-year-old Andrew: charmingly awkward, prone to drinking too much, sweet and open, vulnerable and kind.