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I've been an advocate for Apple TV+ since I saw Servant. I genuinely believe it's the most underrated streaming service out there, especially in my country. Even though I've only watched one TV show, I've yet to seriously dislike a single film (Wolfwalkers, Palmer, On the Rocks), which only elevated my already high expectations for Cherry. I sincerely appreciate the magnificent, genre-defining work that the Russo Brothers did in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, mainly with the last Avengers flicks, so I'd always be interested in seeing how they handle things outside of the MCU. Cast Tom Holland (The Devil All the Time, Onward) as the protagonist, and you've got yourself one of the most anticipated movies of the first half of 2021.
One of the best attributes of the Russo Brothers' filmmaking style is their incredible capability of tackling an overwhelming amount of distinct storylines and characters without ruining the film's pacing, tone, and narrative structure. "Less is more" is not exactly a guideline followed by these directors, which is far from being an issue in the superhero genre. However, when it comes to a smaller movie like Cherry, the combination of genres and different narratives deeply hurts the overarching story. What starts as a simple, cute love story transitions to a heavy war action-drama and ends with a monotonous, dull, slow-paced plot surrounding drug addiction, PTSD, and bank robberies.
These three storylines have served as individual premises to hundreds of films throughout cinema history. This doesn't mean they can't be developed in a single movie, but Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg's screenplay needed to be better structured. The first half of the film is quite captivating and entertaining, to say the least. Cherry (Tom Holland) and Emily (Ciara Bravo) are two compelling characters who get emotionally attached naturally, making the eventual dilemma that leads Cherry to join the army pretty convincing, besides being a reasonably common situation. In this first genre shift, the tone changes without issues, and the entire war plot is definitely worth the viewer's investment.
This portion of the movie is where the directors shine. High production value goes into creating riveting action set pieces, and Newton Thomas Sigel's energetic camera work elevates every major sequence. Marvel fans will surely be delighted during this subplot, but the film's biggest problem comes with its second half. Featuring an extremely abrupt genre transition, Cherry goes downhill throughout its last 80 minutes or so, drowning itself in a pool of taboo subjects. From the drastic drop in pace to the dismal tone, Cherry and Emily go through a painfully repetitive, cliche drug addiction story. Adding PTSD and silly bank robberies to the mix doesn't work at all.
Overall, it's an incredibly messy screenplay that tries to do too much, but the Russo Brothers' overwhelming directing method also doesn't quite work for the movie. Excess of slow-motion, an all-over-the-place score (Henry Jackman) - it's actually quite good, just not used appropriately - and numerous camera angles that, despite delivering gorgeous shots, distract the viewer from the actual story, which should be the main focus. Cherry feels like a showcase for what the famous brothers can do with a smaller budget. While they're successful in demonstrating their talent behind the camera, it's not something they needed to prove to the audience, who just wants to watch a film with great story and characters, not be confused by technical wonders that have no place in this movie.
In the middle of the directing and writing chaos, Tom Holland sweeps in and delivers his career-best performance. In my humble opinion, I strongly believe he could be an Oscar-winner by the end of the decade. At 26-years-old, Holland shows an exceptional emotional range, particularly powerful in interpreting the most solemn emotions. Add a fantastic physical display, and you've got yourself an actor who can basically do anything. With this role, Holland deeply explores his acting skills, performing shocking scenes that everyone will find hard to watch due to his all-out commitment. Ciara Bravo might start as just a "pretty face", but the problematic second half actually helps her get out of her shell and step up her game. Excellent portrayal, surprising even from someone who doesn't have that big of a feature-film career.
Cherry is an indisputable mess, but it hangs on due to a captivating first half, a career-best performance from Tom Holland, and an overall well-shot film. The frustrating, damaging mishmash of genres might originate from the rumpled screenplay, but the unnecessary directing showcase for the Russo Brothers also hurts the multiple-narrative movie. The generic yet accurate "less is more" motto wasn't used during the making of this film, something proved by the sumptuous yet distracting camera angles, a gripping yet all-over-the-place score, and an impactful yet excessive use of slow-motion. The first part boasts a compelling, entertaining storyline featuring an authentic love story and a war drama packed with outstanding action set pieces. However, its other half heavily drops the pacing and depressingly changes the tone, leading the viewer into a tiresome, formulaic, much less interesting storyline. Despite all that, Holland's impressive interpretation will leave no one indifferent, grabbing the audience’s attention until the very end and elevating every single scene. Ciara Bravo works beautifully as the female counterpart, delivering a surprising performance. In the end, I do recommend it, even though I expected a lot more from the people involved.