By Christian DiMartino
Remember the big fuss everyone made whenever Martin Scorsese said that Marvel movies weren’t cinema? Well, Anthony and Joe Russo, of Avengers: Endgame and… You, Me, and Dupree, have sought to put that meanie-butt boomer in his place with Cherry, which has everything, and even the whole kitchen sink. It’s got teenage drama, teenage romance, war, drugs, bank robberies, bank robberies for drugs. You name it, the Russo’s got it. Sorry to say it though guys, but the meanie-butt boomer is still Martin Scorsese, and no matter what you throw at us here, it will never compare to what he’s accomplished.
The Russo’s Cherry isn’t as bad as it is overlong, exhausting, annoying, and unconvincing. Sure, the Russo’s have never done anything like this before, and there is nothing wrong with trying something new. The problem with Cherry though is that while it might be new for the Russo’s, it isn’t necessarily… new. It almost feels like they took notes from other filmmakers, from other great films, and threw it all into an obnoxious, stylistic blender, so then they can be taken seriously as Anthony and Joe Russo, the ARTISTES. Not the artists. The ARTISTES. The second half is better than the first, but by the time you reach the end of Cherry’s ass-numbingly long two and a half hour runtime, you’ll be needing a breather.
Tom Holland is a good actor- I’ve been aware of his talent since The Impossible back in 2012. He is good here too as Cherry, which is not a given name. Actually, we never learn his given name. The film opens with him as a teenager, and the irritation of the style sets in quick as he narrates his experiences. The film is done in the manner of Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and Goodfellas, where our protagonist not only narrates, but he sometimes turns to address the audience. What worked about that approach in those films was that while we didn’t relate to either Henry Hill or Jordan Belfort, the narrators told the story the way that they told it to capture the glory that they’d felt and experienced. There really isn’t ever a feeling of glory in Cherry, so it feels like they’re just doing it to do it. Less would’ve been more, in this case. Also, I’m no prude, but the film has a plethora of inappropriate language, and it often feels like it was written by a 15 year old trying to sound cool.
Anyways, Holland’s Cherry forms a romance with a fellow classmate, Emily (Ciara Bravo). After she distances herself from him and tells him she’s moving to Montreal, he enlists in the Army… just to find out that she actually cares about him, and isn’t going to Montreal. Whomp whomp whomp. So off to war he goes, where he experiences a lot (and, for whatever reason, we see a shot filmed from inside his anus). Upon returning home, the trauma from the war catches up to him, and he begins taking all sorts of medication. Emily, frustrated but understanding of this, also finds herself hooked on drugs, and eventually Cherry finds himself robbing banks to gather money that he not only owes, but also money for the drug habit. Funny thing about these bank robberies: Cherry goes about them in the politest of ways, and yet he never has any close calls with the police. Not one. There aren’t any intense getaways, the guy is just that good, I guess.
The ambitions of the story are admirable, considering it does feel like three movies in one and each is pretty interesting. It is overlong, but considering how much story and ground it covers, I suppose it’s earned. It’s just the approach to the material that sort of sinks Cherry. It’s all so over-the-top, and so flashy and stylistic, that it gets annoying fast. What’s funny is that in telling a story that is somewhat rooted in truth, Cherry sometimes accidentally plays like a comic book. Fitting, seeing as these guys did make some of the best comic book movies in recent memory.
The Russo’s have made plenty of good movies; I did not think this is one of them. Despite its merits, Cherry is ultimately relentless Oscar bait. In dipping their toes in this dramatic lake, The Russo’s have found a film that would’ve otherwise been a terrific Oscar vehicle. Trouble is, they are sort of AWARE that it’s an Oscar vehicle, and they spend two and a half hours making us aware of their awareness. It’s a bit too much for its own good; the work of big ambition, when something simpler and grounded would’ve done the trick much better.