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C’mon C’mon – Movie Review

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C’mon C’mon – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy VVS Films

A quiet film, C’mon C’mon is able to get a lot out of the uncle-nephew relationship at its centre. Director/writer Mike Mills is interested in telling a naturalistic story and the bond between these two characters is what keeps interest alive. Part of why it works is the chemistry between the two actors playing these roles. Mills isn’t interested in making a conventional film, but it never feels like he’s showing off. In using these characters he’s sympathetic towards and placing them in a couple of different environments, he manages to pull us into their lives.

In a nice break from a lot of his recent roles, Joaquin Phoenix portrays a regular radio journalist named Johnny. There’s nothing extraordinary or unique about him. He’s just an ordinary man and Phoenix does a good job of portraying him as such. He’s someone with his own fears and anxieties, but also the things he’s enthusiastic about. His interactions with Woody Norman as his nine-year-old nephew Jesse provide the high points of the film. Their conversations feel genuine and Johnny comes across as someone thrust into this situation and the difficulties that come with it. Mills is able to get solid scenes out of even something mundane like shopping for a toothbrush.

Norman impresses as Jesse, capturing the immaturity and impatience of any child, but also the smartness that will frequently come out on occasion. The film shows his distress at his father’s current mental state and his uncertainty of what will happen to him. Gaby Hoffmann also delivers a solid turn as his mother. Almost all of her scenes with Phoenix are done through telephone conversations and she captures the sadness and despair anyone would feel in her situation. It’s these real human characters that allow the audience to connect with what’s happening on screen, even if we haven’t dealt with the same problems as them.

The choice to film C’mon C’mon in black-and-white isn’t necessarily something that adds a whole lot to the film, though it’s certainly not a bad artistic choice. Robbie Ryan’s cinematography is still striking, making good use of the various apartments the characters are in. They also travel to places like New York and New Orleans and these locations are used to good effect. Throughout the film, we see Johnny and his co-workers conducting interviews and these provide their own intriguing storyline. Mills also includes flashbacks in ways that enhance the characters rather than distract.

While there are moments where the characters are stressed for legitimate reasons, C’mon C’mon is also a movie that’s just nice. You like hanging out with these people and spending time with them as they go about their day. Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman bounce off each other well and we see both the pleasures and the irritation that comes from them being forced to hang out together. Johnny does have to be the adult at times, while Jesse is sometimes the one with wisdom. There’s a neo-realist quality to the storytelling of C’mon C’mon that deserves to be admired.

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE