Cherry (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)
Starring Kyle Gallner, Laura Allen, Brittany Robertson, Esai Morales, D.C. Pierson, Matt Walsh and Zosia Mamet.
Screenplay by Jeffrey Fine.
Directed by Jeffrey Fine.
Distributed by Fresh Shrimp Productions. 99 minutes. Not Rated.
Cherry does a good job of being tasteful with a potentially awkward scenario – a shy seventeen-year-old college freshman finds himself in a prospective love triangle with a thirty-something woman and her wise-beyond-her-age fourteen-year-old daughter.
I can hear the family values phalanx roaring with moral indignation – and I’ll even acknowledge that on the surface it may be warranted – however, the movie is normally self-aware enough to step back before it slips over the line into bad taste.
This complex moral dilemma actually only makes up about half of this film, though it is certainly the more intriguing half, just because it is willing to take such dangerous chances. The rest of the storyline is much more safe – and pretty standard indie film fare – just bordering on cliché.
We’ve all seen the overwhelmed college freshman, coming to terms with life in the new world of learning, despite the fact that his parents are pushing him into a major he has no interest in. We have the party animal roommates, the tough-but-understanding professors, the cute fellow student who seems interested in our hero though he doesn’t seem to notice, the crazed booze soaked parties, the necktie on the doorknob – all the college film touchstones are here.
Kyle Gallner does have an understated and melancholy charm as Aaron, a prodigally smart but socially inept (read: virginal) teen who is going to an unnamed “Ivy League college.” (The script coyly makes this claim several times but refuses to actually name the school. The film is actually mostly filmed at the Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College.) Aaron is intelligent enough to get into the University a year early, but immature enough that he probably shouldn’t have. His overbearing mother (Stephanie Venditto) and hen-pecked dad (Kirk Anderson) expect him to become an engineer, but he wants to be an artist.
One day when auditing an art class, in which the sexually inexperienced kid makes a bit of a fool of himself because he is flustered by the nude figure model, Aaron falls into a flirtatious friendship with Linda (Laura Allen of The 4400), a beautiful older woman who has decided to return to school. Both feel like outcasts because of their age.
One night Laura invites Aaron for a home-cooked dinner, but instead of the “letter to Penthouse” scenario the kid may be hoping for, he ends up meeting her hard-edged daughter Beth (Britt Robertson) who at fourteen is much more mature than Aaron is a few years older. Then, to top it all off, he meets Linda’s policeman boyfriend (Esai Morales), a basically nice guy with a hair-trigger temper.
Due to his constantly screwing around roommate, Aaron quickly falls into a habit of staying over with the mother and daughter. As Aaron becomes closer to mother and daughter, he comes to love both (in mostly chaste ways) and both find themselves drawn to him in different ways. He also comes to learn some of the skeletons in the closet of his new “friends.”
In the meantime, while Aaron is flitting back and forth between his two impossible relationships, he barely notices the interest of a cute college girl named Darcy (played by Zosia Mamet, daughter of playwright / screenwriter / director David Mamet and actress Lindsay Crouse.)
This part of the movie skirts into melodrama periodically, but it is mostly interesting. His academic challenges – which I have not described for good reason – are not nearly so intriguing.
However, I have to admit, all through this coming-of-age tale, I couldn’t help but feel that the protagonist is in general not as interesting as the people who orbit around him. Not just Beth and Linda – though a film about them would definitely be more interesting – but even the cop and the quirky college girl seem much more clearly fleshed out than our protagonist.
I know the film is about the kid trying to find out who he is, but occasionally it feels like writer/director Jeffrey Fine isn’t quite sure, either.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 4, 2010.