Smooth Real Cha Cha (M18)
108 minutes, Apple TV+
The Story: American filmmaker Cooper Raiff wrote, directed, produced and starred as an aimless recent college grad who moves to New Jersey and gets a job throwing kids’ parties in the neighborhood. He falls in love with a single mother a decade his senior, played by Dakota Johnson.
Two reasons to watch this movie:
1. Do you remember Coda (2021)?
Cha Cha Real Smooth was acquired by Apple TV+ for distribution after winning the People’s Choice Award at the Sundance Film Festival in January. That same trajectory last year earned Coda the Best Picture Oscar, so Raiff’s independent success is off to a good start.
2. Not a regular date movie
The love interest has an age-appropriate fiancé (Raul Castillo), plus an autistic daughter (winning neurodiverse newcomer Vanessa Burghardt).
She has her own adult issues. This romantic comedy-drama leaves the future of the relationship uncertain, and Johnson, enigmatic and vulnerable, stands out amid a warm, messy and sprawling array of family and friends.
A reason to reconsider:
1. Growing pains
Raiff, like his character, is still in his twenties, on his second feature film. It further mixes school bullying and bipolar and clinical depression, but the coming-of-age tale of a nice young man overcoming post-college malaise lacks the mature wisdom to be something deeper or bolder than sweet pleasure.
Spider Head (M18)
106 minutes, Netflix
The Story: In a state-of-the-art penitentiary on a tropical island, inmates volunteer for medical experiments to reduce their sentence. Miles Teller is one of those lab rats who begins to question the morality of testing and discovers sinister motives.