REVIEW: C’MON C’MON (2021) A24

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In “C’mon C’mon” we find Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix), a middle-aged, single man who works as a radio journalist based in New York. His job consists of him interviewing young kids from across the country, about their lives, families, their surroundings and most importantly, what they think about the future. Johnny also has a bit of a family problem as he hasn’t spoken to his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffman). since their mother passed away. Viv herself is in the midst of dealing with her ex-husband Paul (Scoot McNairy), who is in and out of mental institutions and she struggles to balance helping him out while taking care of their son Jesse (Woody Norman). Paul is in the middle of a bi-polar mental crisis and Viv asks Johnny if he can come care for Jesse, while she goes to help Paul, even though he really doesn’t know his nephew all that well.

This is where the story takes off as Johnny first comes out to Los Angeles to help, but then because he has to work he decides to take Jesse on a tour and have him help interview the kids. It seems a little far fetched because it is, but you can’t deny the bond that forms between Johnny and Jesse. Their relationship is what is central to the film and rolls from one conversation to another, sometimes about subjects that almost make Jesse seem annoying, but again, kids think and process differently than adults, so it comes across as more loving. As they travel across from New York to New Orleans, they both start discovering different sides to themselves, with Jesse clearly looking up to Johnny as fatherly, even though he loses him not once, but twice in crowds, and realizing parenting is not a simple thing. It helps them grow into better people and even changes their entire outlook on life.

In an odd way, this could almost be considered a ‘buddy’ movie with Joaquin Phoenix playing this role quite effortlessly and while everyone is giving him the kudos on acting, for me Woody Norman is the standout holding his own against the powerhouse of Phoenix’s acting prow-ness. Norman plays Jesse as a very insightful nine-year-old boy who acts as a perfect counterweight to his uncle Johnny, and deserves probably even more of a look-see that Phoenix does. Again, though this duo quite incredible together as it’s clear they have good chemistry, and succeed in making everything feel somewhat genuine and sincere. While Gaby Hoffman has to play 90% of her scenes talking into an iPhone, maybe writer/director Mike Mills is trying to make a point about how we communicate today and the lack on in person speaking anymore, even about important issues like what’s happening here.

Drawbacks that came to mind was the black and white style of filming does take away from it a bit as it makes all the cities seem alike in a way, which takes some away from the point of traveling and being in different ones. As well, on a different note for instance, when they are on the beach in Santa Monica – that exact scene was done in ‘HER’, replacing the phone girlfriend with a child, and It was strange to me. There were many lovely moments, but also hard to connect to moments for me as well as while the film shows a true slice of life, it was also somewhat repetitive in nature.

Wrapping up, there will be some who probably won’t relate to the film, but even if that’s the case, the film gives a lot to think about in so many different ways and the acting goes a long way into making it something more – especially the ending monologue from Phoenix.

Grade: B

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Review Screening ~ Tuesday, November 16, 2021 Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“C’MON C’MON” from A24 is in limited release in LA/NYC beginning on November 19, 2021

REVIEW ~ “WILD” (2014)

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In yet another film this year based on a memoir, this biopic, “WILD” by Cheryl Strayed (played by Reese Witherspoon) who coped with her divorce, the death of her mother, and her own self-destructive behavior by setting out on a grueling, three-month trek along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which runs from Mexico to Canada. Since Hollywood tends not to deal much in too many surprises, whether its sequels, remakes/retreads of the familiar, or actors and directors staying very securely inside their comfort zones, it’s rare for a movie to sneak up and offer something unexpected and this one is no different. I truly expected more all the way around from the Director that made my favourite film of 2013, “Dallas Buyers Club”.

The other big surprise of “Wild” turns out to be Reese Witherspoon, whom after hearing such big notes that she would be going far from her usual comfort zone here, and then really didn’t. If we are looking for out of box characters for her, she was much more convincing for me in her portrayal in MUD. Don’t get me wrong..Witherspoon is far from awful here, and especially after seeing “The Good Lie” earlier this year and that lackluster performance, just not the WOW! performance I was hearing it to be as touted by some. wild 1

We meet Cheryl at the very beginning of her undertaking of this gargantuan hike. Here you would think it’s the sort of journey taken only by hikers with experience, but as we see all of Cheryl’s camping gear coming fresh out of the package, it’s immediately clear that she’s plunging head-first into this huge undertaking with no prep whatsoever as she has no clue what she really should & shouldn’t be taking along. Barely able to support her comically oversized backpack, we follow along as she begins to shed both literal and metaphorical baggage. Cheryl stumbles and struggles through the first few days of her hike, allowing her plenty of time for flashbacks. And that’s really how you find out why she is undertaking this venture because at the beginning you are given no hint as to WHY she is doing so.
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Her mother “Bobbi” (Laura Dern, in a nice moving turn here) was a source of strength, and even in the quick-flash of remembered moments we can see why her loss would be so devastating to Cheryl. Less attention is given to her failed marriage to “Paul” (Thomas Sadoski), but it’s clear that she was in no place emotionally to handle guiding her own life, much less sharing it with someone else. Though she has a brother also, “Leif” (Keene McRae), she seems the be the one with some major problems in life including being a heroin/sex addict and all around mess. wild 3

I think I was just hoping for more here as the movie delves into the easy answers and personal growth waters of ‘Eat Pray Love’ vs. what I had hoped for, more of a harder core. I was looking for some major challenges ala ‘127 hours’ to happen beyond losing her shoes or encounters with a rattlesnake & a caterpillar, both expected considering where she is..a desert. Same with the visuals..There are only a few rare scenery shots here, as well yes, I understand we are in a desert with just a lot of flat land & bushes, but it does change seasons, can be beautiful and I thought there would be some really scenic visuals.

For me, the best part of the story lies in all the characters she meets along the way. I found this part of it the most fascinating. Having undertaken a journey of my own at one point (I packed up my car and drove across the U.S. one summer, stopping randomly in places and meeting people everywhere I went..loved it), though no, not hiking as it’s something I’ve never been fond of, that & sleeping in tents, (yeah I know..picky picky)..but characters such as “Frank” (W. Earl Brown) & his wife “Annette” (Jan Hoag), “Greg” (Kevin Rankin) & his friends, “Ed” (Cliff De Young), the only other female hiker she encounters along the way, the “Ranger” (Brian Van Holt) and the group of guys she gets drunk with round the ol’ campfire, “Josh” (Will Cuddy), “Rick” (Leigh Parker) & “Ritchie” (Nick Eversman). My ending point is that I think a lot of people have done a journey of some type or another in their lives and sorry but I guess I’ve just heard much more fascinating stories than this one.

Grade: C

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