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Cherry (2010)
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by Jay Seaver

"A total fantasy, as no engineering student attracts this many girls."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2010 BOSTON FILM FESTIVAL: By festival-schedule happenstance, I saw "Cherry" roughly 24 hours after "It's Kind of a Funny Story", which has a fair amount of surface similarities once you correct for their different settings. "Cherry" isn't nearly as polished, but it's willing to make the audience squirm a little and occasionally go for the big laugh, which is worth something.

Aaron (Kyle Gallner) is a gifted student who comes from a long line of engineers, bright enough to be starting college at an Ivy League university a year early, and like many prodigies, somewhat awkward socially, which his new roommate "Wild" Bill (D.C. Pierson) takes advantage of. Still, despite the pressure put upon him by his sponsoring professor (Matt Walsh), he manages to attract interest from three different ladies: Darcy (Zosia Mamet), the nice girl on his floor who's also a target of Bill's hazing; Linda (Laura Allen), a "resumed ed" student in her early thirties that he meets in an art class; and Beth (Britt Robertson), her fourteen-year-old daughter. That's complicated, even before you factor in Linda's current boyfriend, Wes (Esai Morales), a cop who doesn't impress Beth much at all.

When writer/director Jeffrey Fine focuses on the mechanics of the college comedy, the result is fairly bland: The suffocating mother, hazing, gross-out jokes, and academic competition with a scholarship on the line, complete with villainous faculty member, all arrive right on time, and of course Aaron is going to discover that art is what he truly loves despite his parents' prodding (just once, I'd like to see hippie parents fretting over how much their kid likes math, and the film ascribing nobility to interest in science). As college movies go, it's not bad - the material with Aaron and Bill is actually pretty decent - but more than a little rote.

What Fine has done is created a group of potentially interesting characters, cast them with good character actors, and played their interactions out in interesting, generally believable ways. What's going on is interesting symbolically - the movie is about Aaron being between juvenile and adult relationships, as represented by Beth and Linda, and not just romantically; there are times when Linda represents an alternate mother figure and both she and Beth need someone responsible to look after them; it is, inevitably, an awkward transition to adulthood. These characters don't just exist as ways to bring something out of Aaron, though; Fine and the cast make sure they feel like people with lives and histories of their own.

It starts from Kyle Gallner as Aaron, and he does a fine job of holding the film together. We meet him as a kid both embarrassed by and helpless before his pushy mother, and a certain amount of that not knowing how to behave persists throughout the movie, even as Beth works to bring him out of his shell. He's better than the script at times, especially early on, as his voice and body language get us inside his head better than the weird ways of talking and acting that Fine sometimes gives him.

Stephanie Venditto and Kirk Anderson play Aaron's parents, and we see right away how they've made him what he is: Venditto nails the control freak whose intentions are unquestionably good but who has very little ability to see others as equals, while Anderson's meek father has clearly enabled her for some time. Laura Allen and Britt Robertson would be great in their roles even if they didn't look like they could share DNA; Allen can shift from a confident and worldly woman who is of course going to captivate the campus boys to a wreck without it seeming like pulling off a false face, and Robertson nails a teenager who is angry but also amazingly resilient; this part would have been a disaster with someone who only saw Beth as bitter and angry.

"Cherry" doesn't always move smoothly between its generic comedy and its age-inappropriate but often genuinely interesting relationships. Maybe it should have cut the plot about the engineering competition and Aaron's scholarship, or maybe gone the other way and integrated Linda directly into that plot. The movie frequently seems cut in half because of it, as well as how occasionally dark the part that's family drama versus campus hijinks can get. It's almost like Fine and editor Chris Parisotto know this, spending as little time on the standard-issue plot as they can and still provide the film with bookends.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20279&reviewer=371
originally posted: 09/27/10 17:37:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Traverse City Film Festival For more in the 2010 Traverse City Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Boston Film Festival For more in the 2010 Boston Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/27/11 Jon Surprisingly creative, well-done, and affecting. 4 stars
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  DVD: 30-Aug-2011


  DVD: 30-Aug-2011

Directed by
  Jeffrey Fine

Written by
  Jeffrey Fine

  Kyle Gallner
  Laura Allen
  Britt Robertson

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