‘Cherry’ Review — The Russo Brothers Demand to be Taken Seriously

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Cherry Review

You can’t blame Joe and Anthony Russo for wanting to make a different kind of movie after helming four Marvel blockbusters for about half a decade. Following the massive success of Avengers: Endgame, the biggest movie ever, the Russo Brothers want you to know that they are very serious filmmakers with Cherry, their adaptation of the Nico Walker novel of the same name. instead of jamming this movie with a bevy of superheroes, the Russo Brothers jam Cherry with storylines encompassing young love, war, addiction, and crime. For good measure, the sibling filmmakers also make sure to throw an array of styles at their tragic tale. Fresh off hitting one of the biggest homeruns in history, the Russo Brothers return to the plate with a big ol’ whiff.

Cherry unfolds in a series of chapters that include a prologue and epilogue. Tom Holland stars as an unnamed protagonist, and his story really starts in 2002 when he’s in college. It’s there that he meets Emily (Ciara Bravo), and the two fall in love. It’s apparent in these opening scenes that there’s going to be little rhythm in Cherry, as inconsequential scenes with inconsequential characters drag on and on. He and Emily have a whirlwind romance on the college campus, but their young love is dashed by reality as Emily is set to study in Canada in the coming months. They fight. They break up. He joins the Army. They get married. She goes to Canada. He goes to basic training. This unfolds over a very sluggish half hour.

At basic training, Holland’s character is turned into an Army medic as the Russo Brothers engage in a bit of Full Metal Jacket homage. But these scenes only get to the surface of Kubrick’s military classic, failing to understand what makes Full Metal Jacket so resonate – the systematic dehumanization of enlistees. Instead these scenes are just more filler before the protagonist is deployed into the Middle East where he will serve as a medic.

The war setting of Cherry is another area where the Russos employ an array of stylistic tics that fall flat as the film has little to say about the never-ending wars in the Middle East aside from “war is hell.” It’s also frustrating the way Cherry takes the long route through each of its chapters because while some of the events are crucial to the story, they’re often populated with nothing characters that serve little purpose and are forgotten about once they’ve exited the screen. The violence that erupts on the battlefield leaves the protagonist with unseen wounds and he carries his trauma home into his new domestic life with Emily.

Returning from war and reintegrating into society proves impossible, as he’s haunted by the horrors of the battlefield. He can’t sleep. Xanax has stopped working. He drinks to excess. It’s only a matter of time before his old friend James Lightfoot (Forrest Goodluck) introduces him to Oxycontin. When his VA doctor gives him a prescription for his drug of choice, the unnamed protagonist spirals further into addiction, taking Emily on the downward plunge with him. They soon graduate from pills to needles, scoring their dope from a dealer with the rather blunt name of Pills & Coke (Jack Raynor). As their addiction grows as do their debts. It’s only a matter of time before Holland’s character finds a solution – robbing banks.

Once Cherry finds its characters trapped in a cycle of addiction it finds probably its most effective drama. The film captures the tragedy of addiction as they characters abandon everything around them except for dope. It clearly illustrates how quickly an addiction can escalate, where problems multiply exponentially but there’s no solution aside from the next fix. The problem is this part of the film arrives way too late to give the film a bit of life. In fact, these scenes still have the pacing problems that plague Cherry from start to finish, but its dramatic elements are more earnest than most of the film.

What’s probably most impressive about Cherry is just how bereft of tension the film really is. A film that features scenes of war and bank robberies shouldn’t be so painfully boring to sit through, but Cherry is just that. The screenplay by Jessica Goldberg and Angela Russo-Otstot has Holland proving a strained narration from start to finish, but its often employed for the protagonist to verbalize what should be unfolding before our eyes. Cherry is a film that wants more to tell than show because trying to tell a story mainly through visual means would impede all the stylistic flourishes that directors throw at the screen.

Since his breakout appearance in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland has proven himself to be one of the most exciting young actors working today. Holland deserves credit for really pushing himself in this role, delivering a very dedicated performance. But Holland is asked to carry practically every scene of the movie, and the script gives the young actor very little help from his supporting players. Despite her best efforts, Ciara Bravo’s performance is woefully undermined by a lack of depth to her character. She’s the most important person in the protagonist’s life but the film always keeps her at distance that she never feels like a fully fleshed out character, instead just a romantic interest that becomes a junky. However, there are no memorable supporting characters in Cherry. None of these side characters leave an impression on the story or the audience.

With their Marvel movies, the Russo Brothers were able to rein in overstuffed narratives and still deliver big moments of eye-popping action as well as resonate moments of character. With Cherry, the Russo Brothers fail to rein in the overstuffed narrative nor do they deliver any impactful moments of action or character. I don’t blame the Russos or Tom Holland for attempting a bold departure from their crowd-pleasing Marvel fare, but Cherry just comes up short in way too many ways. I like the Russo Brothers’ work for the most part and have no doubt that they’ll quickly bounce back from this misfire. Hopefully for their next film the Russo Brothers won’t demand to be taken seriously.

Cherry
  • Overall Score
2

Summary

A chaotic mishmash of cinematic styles and storylines, the Russo Brothers reteam with Tom Holland for Cherry, a story of war, love, addiction, and bank robberies that consistently falls flat in an overlong slog.

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