Sunday, April 24, 2022

C'mon C'mon

Movie Name:
C'mon C'mon
Year of Release: 2021
Director: Mike Mills
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Woody Norman, Gaby Hoffmann, Scoot McNairy, Molly Webster, Jakoubie Young-White, Deborah Strang
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Writer/director Mike Mills follow up to the fantastic "20th Century Women" is again a story about families and the ties that unite them, but this time around with a slightly different perspective than his previous endeavors. The film follows the story of Johnny, a radio Journalist who is currently doing an ethnographic style type of project, going around the country interviewing children about their lives and their expectations for the future. He receives an unexpected call from his sister, whom he hasn't spoken with since the death of their mother, asking him for some help. Her husband is dealing with some mental health issues, and she needs to go to Oakland and try to find a way to help him. While doing so, she needs Johnny to take care of Jesse, her nine year old son. Johnny agrees and stays in LA with Jesse, however when Viv asks for more time, he asks her if he can take Jesse to NY. Soon Johnny has to resume his work, and he takes Jesse along, this time around to New Orleans. As uncle and nephew travel around the US and experience daily life together, the more they realize about their own ties, their family relationships, fears, and ultimately reflect on what life has unveiled for them.
What has always been surprising about Mike Mills' films is the way he finds to make his personal experiences and point of view, into something that is humane, and that translates across to so many of his audience's own experiences. Shared experiences is not a prerequisite to enjoy a film of course, but his finest work has a deft mechanism of touching you in unexpected ways, particularly because he creates characters and situations that feel authentic and rooted in something genuine (even if for instance his narratives take place in very specific times and locations). "C'mon C'mon" is the first of his features where the essence of the narrative feels contrived and somewhat artificially constructed around a very precocious nine year old, who strangely enough, feels more like an interpretation of what a nine year old says and does than an actual child. The film fails to materialize a character's point of view, since neither Jesse nor Johnny's really comes across that clearly. There's much to admire in this film, particularly the narrative of Johnny, how he deals with grief, and how his process of listening to others allows him to figure out his own issues, but the film doesn't probe any deeper, choosing instead to deal with the choppy relationship with Jesse. For the first time in all his films, it feels like this particular narrative doesn't really know what it wants to say, at times aiming to be a Spike Jonze exploration on love (without the humor), and at other times, trying to be slightly ethereal in a style that only Sofia Coppola manages to capture so well. While Joaquin Phoenix is always fantastic, he can't save this film, which at times just drags on, because once more it just doesn't know what it wants to say. Gaby Hoffmann provides great support as usual, and the production team is fantastic, particularly the stunning cinematography from Robbie Ryan. Ultimately, this simply isn't one of Mike Mills' best features.