Pictures | “Go go” – A24
I love a quirky movie as much as the next one, probably even more, but writer/director Mike Mills really pushes the quirkiness factor in “C’mon C’mon.” The film is ultimately saved by performances that stay grounded despite Mills’ tendency to be adorable. Not Joaquin Phoenix, his artfully tousled hair, his undeniably cool and important job as a radio producer, asking serious kids serious questions about the future! Not shot in black and white for more weirdness! Not a precocious moppet co-star!
The film has, indeed, all of these factors and more. I won’t blame you if any part of this movie rubs you the wrong way. But, while it’s safe to say the aggressively weird child star was so overwritten that viewers might not really like him, ultimately the film’s adult stars keep things real. , just like adults are, theoretically, supposed to do in real life.
The things adults are theoretically supposed to do in real life are, in fact, the purpose of the film, which gives us Phoenix as Johnny, Woody Norman as his 9-year-old nephew Jesse and, most wonderfully, Gaby Hoffmann as Viv, mum of Jesse and sister of Johnny. Mills, whose films include “Beginners” and “20th Century Women,” writes about incredible and specific mothers. Maybe I’m just all warm and fuzzy from this movie, but I had the – perhaps ridiculous – thought that he must really love his own mother. Or maybe all of these female characters are just fantastic moms.
In “Beginners,” her 2010 film that won Christopher Plummer his Oscar and which I greatly preferred to this more recent film, the mother only appears in a few flashbacks, but they are indelible. Hoffmann’s departure is what makes the plot unfold in “C’mon Cmon”; she has to travel for a week to help her bipolar ex-husband with a mental health emergency. Nonetheless, through flashbacks and phone calls, Viv’s character asserts itself. Most of the movie is just Johnny hanging out with his nephew, taking him back to New York and then back to New Orleans with him to record his interviews while Viv is temporarily out of sight.
Mills plays with unconventional elements, like having characters read books and essays and overlaying a quote onscreen. Either way, the text enhanced our understanding of the film, but if it sounds pedantic, that’s because it was. But really, this movie was an intimate, cozy character study, and it worked best when the lively, believable characters acted like real human beings. When he tries too hard, “C’mon C’mon” fails to make any big points and becomes almost insulting in the process. But when the film just breathes, it’s beautiful. Phoenix was refreshingly understated, while Hoffmann had scenes I will think about for a long time.
At any point, the viewer might find this self-indulgent little movie unbearable, but I thought it was fun to watch Johnny become a parent for a few days, and the movie gets so right about parenting. Small disposable moments stay true. I’m not even sure if Mills meant to point out how much parenthood is, or certainly can be, conceit when he showed Johnny’s co-workers calling his nephew his mini. Of course, Johnny beams. It’s fun to walk around with a cute kid who makes you look cuter. It’s less fun when they just don’t want to fall asleep.
Even though a lot of screen time was given to the harrowing interviews with the kids, they detracted from the film’s naturalistic strengths. I guess it depends on the viewer’s level of personal grumpiness. “Beginners” remains one of my most recommended films of recent years; “C’mon C’mon” just wasn’t as special or memorable. The actors did great things in the film, but I think a lot of its overall impact will come down to how it resonates with you personally.
“C’mon C’mon” is currently available for rental.
New this week:
“X”: In 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the actors find themselves fighting for their lives. All multiplex cinemas.
“Jujutsu Kaisen 0”: Yuta Okkotsu is a nervous high school student who suffers from a serious problem – his childhood friend Rika has turned into a curse and won’t leave him alone. Since Rika is no ordinary curse, her plight is noticed by Satoru Gojo, a teacher at Jujutsu High, a school where young exorcists learn to fight curses. Gojo convinces Yuta to enroll, but can he learn enough in time to face the curse that haunts him? All multiplex cinemas.
“The clothe”: From the Academy Award-winning author of ‘The Imitation Game’ (Graham Moore) comes ‘The Outfit,’ a gripping and masterful thriller in which an expert tailor (Oscar winner Mark Rylance) must outwit a dangerous group of gangsters to survive a fateful night. AMC Mobile 16.