Photo | “C’mon C’mon” – A24
I like a quirky film just as much as the next person, probably even more, but writer/director Mike Mills really pushes the eccentricity factor in “C’mon C’mon.” The film is ultimately saved by performances that remain grounded despite Mills’ tendency toward adorableness. Not Joaquin Phoenix, his hair artfully disheveled, his job as radio producer unassailably cool and important, asking earnest kids probing questions about the future! Not shot in black and white for extra quirkiness! Not a precocious moppet co-star!
The film does, indeed, have all of those factors and more. I will not fault you if some of this film rubs you the wrong way. But, while it could be argued that the aggressively odd child star was written so excessively that viewers may not actually like him, in the end, the adult stars of the film 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 point 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, mom to Jesse and sister to Johnny. Mills, whose films include “Beginners” and “20th Century Women,” writes amazing, specific mothers. Maybe I’m just all warm and fuzzy from this flick, but I had the — possibly ludicrous — thought he must have really loved his own mom. Or maybe all these women characters are just fantasy moms.
In “Beginners,” his 2010 film that earned Christopher Plummer his Oscar and that I much preferred to this newer film, the mother only shows up in a few flashbacks, but they are indelible. Hoffmann’s departure is what makes the plot happen in “C’mon Cmon”; she has to travel for a week to help her bipolar ex-husband with a mental health emergency. Nevertheless, through flashbacks and phone calls, the character of Viv asserts herself. Mostly, the film is just Johnny hanging out with his nephew, bringing him back to New York and then to New Orleans with him to record his interviews while Viv is temporarily out of the picture.
Mills plays around with some unconventional elements like having the characters read books and essays and basically superimposing a citation on the screen. In all the cases, the text did enhance our understanding of the film, but if that sounds pedantic, it’s because it was. But really, this film was an intimate, comfortable character study, and it worked best when the vivid and believable characters acted like real human beings. When it tries too hard, “C’mon C’mon” fails to make grand points and becomes almost insulting in the process. But when the film is just breathing, it is lovely. Phoenix was refreshingly underplayed, while Hoffmann had some scenes I will be thinking about for a long time.
At any point, the viewer might deem this self-indulgent little movie insufferable, but I thought it was fun to watch Johnny become a parent for a few days, and the film casually gets so much correct about parenthood. Little throwaway moments just stick. I don’t even know if Mills intended to point out how much of parenting is, or certainly can be, vanity when he showed Johnny’s co-workers calling his nephew his mini. Of course, Johnny beams. It’s fun walking around with a cute kid who makes you look cuter yourself. It’s less fun when they simply won’t go to sleep.
Even though a lot of screen time was given to the poignant kid interviews, they detracted from the film’s naturalistic strengths. I guess it depends on the viewer’s personal curmudgeon level. “Beginners” still remains one of my most-recommended movies from the past few years; “C’mon C’mon” was simply not as special or memorable. The actors did some great things in the film, but I think a lot of its overall impact will come down to how personally it resonates with you.
“C’mon C’mon” is currently available to rent.
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 cast finds themselves fighting for their lives. All multiplex theaters.
“Jujutsu Kaisen 0”: Yuta Okkotsu is a nervous high school student who is suffering 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, his plight is noticed by Satoru Gojo, a teacher at Jujutsu High, a school where fledgling exorcists learn how to combat Curses. Gojo convinces Yuta to enroll, but can he learn enough in time to confront the Curse that haunts him? All multiplex theaters.
“The Outfit”: From the Academy Award-winning writer of “The Imitation Game” (Graham Moore) comes “The Outfit,” a gripping and masterful thriller in which an expert tailor (Academy Award-winner Mark Rylance) must outwit a dangerous group of mobsters to survive a fateful night. AMC Mobile 16.
This page is available to our subscribers. Join us right now to get the latest local news from local reporters for local readers.
The best deal is found by clicking here. Click here right now to find out more. Check it out.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here