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James Reviews: 'Cherry'

by James F. Ewart 2 months ago in movie review
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Tom Holland delivers a standout performance in a scattershot semi-biography.

DISCLAIMER: This review contains spoilers, read at your own discretion.

Taking place between 2002 and 2021, Cherry is an adaptation of the autofictional book of the same name. The author, Nico Walker served as a medic in over 250 combat missions during the Iraq War, he suffered from undiagnosed PTSD, became a heroin addict, and ended up becoming a bank robber to fuel his addiction. That’s pretty much what happens in Cherry, except there are some creative liberties taken, as with any true story.

I have to give credit where credit is due. The Russo brothers have become synonymous with superhero team-up blockbusters, and for them to tackle a story that is meant to be gritty and not a crowd pleaser is a welcome change of pace. Tom Holland is also changing things up, with a role that is a far cry from the wide-eyed, sarcastic, teenager with superpowers. I was excited to see them tackle this grand narrative that’s meant to come across as almost biographical, but while it covers a lot of ground, it doesn’t get any deeper than the surface level.

First things first, Tom Holland is outstanding. This is one those movies where the actor’s performance is what holds everything together. The material that he’s given may not be the best, but he keeps you engaged and interested in where the story is going. You want to learn more about this character, and each new event in his life manages to hold you in.

When looking at the cinematography, lighting, and framing there are some choice moments that stand out. Whenever Emily (Ciara Bravo), the girl he loves, is onscreen, the edges of the frame are slightly blurred, focusing your eyes on the middle. Giving that point-of-view look. Another moment I liked was when he’s talking to a bank teller, figuring out why he still has to pay overdraft charges, and she’s shrouded in darkness. Some might find it distracting, but I thought it was a cool way to symbolize the disconnect between the two.

From a purely creative standpoint, there are a lot of ideas. In terms of how the narrative is structured, however, it feels like the Russo Brothers cherry-picked, no pun intended, aspects of other movies and slapped them together to create this blend of war drama, crime thriller, and love story. The movie likes to use its slow-mo, or at least half slow-mo, since there’s a lot of scenes where you can tell the footage slows down, but not to the point where it feels like a Zack Snyder movie. There’s two takes on the same scene. One where the sunlight shines on her, and the camera melodramatically dollies in on their faces then later he’s just causally admiring Emily, and the lighting is all normal. I can see what they were trying to accomplish, but it feels just redundant. Another example is where his mirror stays standing when he’s lowering his face into the sink, then he freaks out and punches it. That’s the glaring issue with this movie. Moments like these are sprinkled throughout, trying to create some big emotional climax, but it comes across as the movie trying too hard to be artsy. Destroying a wall or mirror is a big moment in other movies, but that doesn’t mean the Russo Brothers had to put it in here. It comes across as cheap and uninspired.

This movie clearly should have been a mini-series. An episode about when he was in college, an episode about his time in the army, an episode of his downward spiral, and so forth. Despite having a two-and-a-half-hour runtime, it only covers just enough for you to get the basic idea. Guy falls in love, guy joins the army, guy goes to war and gets PTSD, guy gets addicted to drugs, guy robs banks. Heck, the whole love story with him and Emily takes up a whole ten minutes before he ships off to combat. And don’t get me started on the narration. When you have to use a narrator to fill in plot holes, the chances are your story isn’t that good. The movie gives us all these snapshots in time, but it doesn’t give us anything to properly connect to the characters. Things happen and then we shuffle along to the next event. The movie opens with him robbing a bank, and so it creates this level of expectation that he’s done this before, and we’ll see the outcome later on. But then when we come back, he just gives up, and let’s himself get arrested. The last few minutes before the credits roll is of him in prison, joining a support group, and then getting better over time. You think they would cover this fourteen-year period, you know, showing his progression, maybe meeting some people. Instead, it just fast forwards through it all with a montage. He gets out, and we have a cheesy final shot to wrap things up.

Cherry is a breath of fresh air for both Tom Holland and the Russo Brothers, but it borrows elements from other movies, without creating an identity of its own. The plot jumps from one period of Cherry’s life from another, it skims along the emotional depth, and it wraps things up way too conveniently. There are glimmers of an interesting movie, but by the end, you feel like you were watching a highlight reel instead of a sweeping epic. I wanted to love this movie, I wanted to come out of it saying that the Russo Brothers have what it takes to stand with the more auteur directors of our time. But, they still have a long way to go, and I hope they learnt something from this experiment.

Rating: 4/10 - Poor

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About the author

James F. Ewart

I write what's on my mind.

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