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Sundance 2022 Day 4 Recap

Today marks the halfway point of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, but we've still got plenty more movies to recap before it's all done. Here are my thoughts on everything I saw during day 4. Spoiler alert: one of them happens to be one of my absolute favorites of the festival.


CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH

Cha Cha Real Smooth is the type of Sundance movie that continually renews my love of the festival. Every couple of years, a movie like this comes along that really has it all--charm, humor, and heart. Right from the start it just felt so refreshing--new yet familiar. Cha Cha Real Smooth follows Andrew (Cooper Raiff) a fresh out of college 22 year-old who still isn't really sure what he wants to do with his life. He'd like to follow his college sweetheart to Spain but doesn't have the money. So he's stuck living with his mom (Leslie Mann) and his stepdad (Brad Garrett). But at least he's got his little brother, David, for company and can tag along with him to Bar Mitzvahs. At one such Bar Mitzvah, he meets Domino (Dakota Johnson) and her daughter Lola (newcomer Vanessa Burghardt), who is often bullied because she's autistic. Andrew helps get Lola out of her shell, which impresses Domino, and she asks if he'd consider becoming her babysitter. Andrew bonds with both mother and daughter and starts to mature as he sees more of what he wants out of life. Cha Cha Real Smooth is such a warm and friendly movie. It draws you in with how endearing it is and how hopeful Andrew is as a character. This is one where you really find yourself loving spending time with these characters and once it was over I wanted to watch it again. RATING: 8.5/10


MASTER

A New England college campus serves as the setting for Master, a film where two black women are haunted by the school's past history with witchcraft. Jasmine (Zoe Renee) is one of the only black students in her class, and she can't help but feel ostracized by her peers. Especially when they all jeer and snicker over the fact that she got delegated to the dorm room that legend has it is haunted. Gail (Regina Hall) is the college's first black Master of Students and has worked hard for the accomplishment. She's concerned for Jasmine and feels a kinship with her since she, too, has been seeing some unsettling things around the campus. Master is compelling all throughout and boasts some really fantastic cinematography and some cool scares. Unfortunately, while it feels like it's building to something really great, it ends with a fizzle instead of a bang. In the end, it feels a bit unsatisfying where some of the character threads go and that it doesn't culminate into something a bit more haunting. RATING: 6.5/10


ALICE

Keke Johnson gives a really strong performance as Alice, a slave who escaped her owner's plantation...only to discover she's actually living in the contemporary world of the 1970s. Based on a true story, I found this one to be fascinating--even if I wish they had delved a bit deeper into Alice's transition of grasping the reality of her situation, as well as those around her understanding the depths of what she went through. Alice would have benefited greatly from spending less time on the setup and more on Alice's adjustment emotionally and mentally to her circumstances. It does feel like some key scenes are missing here in connecting certain narrative dots which keeps it from being a stronger film overall. Still, the parts that worked, worked really well. I enjoyed the culture shock elements of Alice being thrown into a world so unknown to her and the ending is great. Plus I love its homage to black cinema of the 1970s. The score is fun and the production design is stellar. Solid film, even if it needed a bit more polishing. RATING: 6.5/10


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