Following up their directorial work on the highest-grossing film of all time, Avengers: Endgame (2019), the Russo’s are back in the director’s chair with Cherry.
After almost a decade of working for Disney on MCU films, they are now focused on more ‘serious’ filmmaking. Written by Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg and based on Nico Walker’s novel, Cherry stars Tom Holland (on his fourth project with the directing duo), Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, and Michael Rispoli.
The film follows the wild journey of a disempowered and unhinged young man from Ohio named Cherry (Tom Holland). Many things happen to him on this journey. He meets the love of his life, only to risk losing her through a string of bad decisions and taxing life circumstances. He drifts from dropping out of college to serving time in Iraq as an Army medic, only guided by his one true love, Emily (Ciara Bravo).
After Cherry returns home as a war hero, he fights the demons of undiagnosed PTSD and then coils into drug addiction, surrounding himself with a menagerie of degraded misfits. Draining his finances, he turns to rob banks to fund his slowly craving drug addiction, shattering his bonded relationship with Emily along the way. He tries to find purpose and human connection in life, but a tough fight with his demons conquers his persona.
The film is divided into six stages of Cherry’s life, each taking on a different style and motif. It tackles everything possible in those stages, from American healthcare and understanding mental health to the opioid crisis and the U.S. prison system, accompanied by a jarring voiceover. Although it addresses all of those things, it does not put much focus on them. It delivers an unenthusiastic attempt in commentary towards its themes; a statement made on each theme before moving onto the next one rapidly, making the audience question the purpose of it all.
What else does the film have? Non-captivating cinematography and editing, fourth-wall-breaking monologues, flashing title cards, aspect ratio changes, multi-style camerawork, blinding saturation, and excessive opera music use. There is too much all the time. It is a showy yet experimental style of directing, but in the end, it feels like an immature piece of work. Not all the creative choices work, and thanks to those choices, the film’s emotional heft is reduced. It takes you away from the film, and the audience remains distracted by every snip and cut of the edit.
To give credit where credit is due; Tom Holland does deliver a good performance. It is the best work of his career, but his performance alone cannot save the film from being in disarray. He tries his best to save the movie and hold it together on his back, but the material is too harrowing to carry alone. He cannot cut across the horrid script that is holding him back tremendously. Also, because the film divides into stages of Cherry’s life and those stages are years between them, Holland does not look the part in the film’s latter stages.
The only two good decisions that the Russo’s made while making this film was putting Tom Holland in the lead role and using The Trammps’ song ‘Disco Inferno’ in the movie. Other than that, there is not much to say on a positive note. It is a very forgettable film with a dreadful script. The Russo brothers had tremendous success with their Marvel films, that it is hard to see them deliver such an incendiary mess of a film. The best way to describe Cherry is over-stylized, overstuffed, messy, non-captivating droll. It tries to do too much all the time that it falls into an ironic and bleak hole, never to get out.
Initial movie poster was digitally misprinted by Variety, causing the title Cherry to appear as something that looked like “Cherk”.