Director(s): Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writer(s): Angela Russo-Otstot, Jessica Goldberg
Cast: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo
Synopsis: An Army medic suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder becomes a serial bank robber after an addiction to drugs puts him in debt.
Before being tapped on to direct multiple Avengers films, the Russo Brothers, aside from their TV work, had made You, Me and Dupree. While I think their work on Community is wonderful for a sitcom, You, Me and Dupree was very much a lower-level type of directing effort. The fact that they were even given the reigns to make MCU films was a major risk for Marvel, but it paid off in such a huge way.
Throughout their four MCU films you watched them grow as directors as they found a sense of style and flair that really worked, but also was able to ground these larger than life characters into reality and make Superheroes feel human. By the time Avengers: Endgame, easily their biggest MCU film was released, you could really feel they had control over what they were doing. Avengers: Endgame didn’t become the highest-grossing film of all time on name alone, but because the film was sincerely a masterpiece in epic filmmaking.
Cherry marks the brother’s first directorial effort post MCU, and while it is highly ambitious, I think sticking to large-scale epics might be their best bet in the future. They truly are great at taking a human story and making it feel larger than life, but Cherry felt more like an experimental film that allowed them to try out all sorts of new tricks and styles that they have never been able to work with before. At times the film did have an incredibly personable and relatable feel to it, but there were others that felt like it was putting these characters and these moments into the most fictionalized setting that there could be. This film never felt one thing, but instead was an amalgamation of everything that the Russo’s have ever wanted to do in a film, and that led mostly to a sloppy and messy film that felt thrown together rather than carefully thought out.
This is what is the most disappointing for me, is that if they would have just fixated on making this film one thing, rather than a bunch of little things, I think we have a really great movie. There was so much to like about certain parts of the film. The score was breathtaking. The music was felt in every scene and was just beautiful to listen to. The cinematography as well was absolutely gorgeous. When the film really was broken down to its roots, and not made to feel like an epic fantasy, some of the shots and moments were so well done. These smaller moments of reflection and pain, where everything clicked on all cylinders, this is when the film really felt like it was going to be something great. But for every heartbreaking or beautiful moment like this, we were given more and more confusing and over-stylized moments that never gave us time to sit in reflection with some of the more grounded moments.
The one thing that I think worked from start to finish was Tom Holland, and he truly was great. With each role he takes, Holland is further distancing himself from being typecast as Spider-Man, and I think his career will be all the better for it. Here, he truly gives what would be an Oscar-worthy performance in a better film. He was electric in every scene he was in, whether it be pure insanity, realism, or heartbreak, he was a force within this character. There was an interesting choice in making him the overarching narrator of the whole film, but I thought Holland pulled off this film as best as he could. Some really tense and honest moments continued to show me just how good of an actor he is, plus he might be one of the most believable criers in Hollywood.
What makes Holland’s performance even better is that he had so much to do over such a large portion of time. This film is long, and I mean like prime MCU runtime long. The opioid crisis is a very serious one, and I think that even within this film there was a great story, but it was utterly dismantled by the almost two and a half hour runtime. Now, I am a fan of long movies, and I think if a film has to be longer to tell its story, it should be. But here it just felt like they were adding things because they could, which led to a vastly over-explained and over-analyzed story. Far too many moments were dragged out for the sake of being dragged out. I understand wanting to tell the story, but, to me, this just shows a lack of faith in the audience to be able to pick up on certain cues. In the MCU, things have to be explained to give the fans easter eggs to analyze and theorize, but here, a bit of ambiguity would have gone such a long way in telling this story.
Final: Tom Holland’s great performance can’t save Cherry from being an over saturated and experimental mess. The Russo’s as take every stylistic choice they have ever seen or done and jam pack it into one film. I can truly see the potential for a great movie, and that’s what causes this to be even more disappointing, but in this case, less would have done so much more.
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.