Man, I really wanted to like “Cherry.” Tom Holland is a great actor, and I have loved Anthony and Joe Russos’ work since their days on “Community.” Right on the heels of “Avengers: Endgame,” the Russos release one of the most incomprehensible, scatter-brained and just confusing films in recent memory. I feel like the only way to describe “Cherry” is a car wreck that you can’t look away from, but definitely wince at more than once. I usually preface a film with an introduction before diving into my thoughts, but this movie is so bewildering from start to finish, that I have no idea where to start.
With directors as skilled as the Russos who could do no wrong in the Marvel Universe, I expected the storytelling to at least be competent. However, if this is what happens to the Russos after the Marvel leash has been cut, I don’t think I’m going to look forward to any of their films again. They make many bizarre choices in bringing “Cherry” to the screen, and they are rarely effective in enhancing the experience.
The most shocking choice made is undoubtedly the over-stylized, self-indulgent cinematography that infects just about every shot of the film. It looks great, don’t get me wrong, but it fits so poorly in this story. And while it is striking at times, the film beats you over the head with very long lenses, distracting color choices and unnecessary camera movement. It just felt like the Russos wanted to create the boldest and different film after making Marvel movies for the past five years, and it just doesn’t work. These shots are trying to develop a hyper-fantasy world in a movie about the real subject matter. The cinematography only distracts viewers from every emotional beat that the film is trying to build.
Going off of that, the world of “Cherry” is just so weird. The Russos make many strange choices when it comes to characters or certain landmarks in the world of the film. Only a few side characters have real names, whereas others have nicknames that are only referred to as such, including “Cherry” (Tom Holland) or “Pills and Coke” (Jack Reynor). Other minor characters like the doctor or sergeant that Cherry speaks to have name tags labeled, “Whomever.” Even the banks have outlandish names that try to make a point, like “Capitalist One” or “The Bank.” As far as I know, these choices don’t add anything to the film, and if there is a message that they are trying to get across, this isn’t enough.
On the subject of meaning, I don’t even understand the purpose of this movie. The first 40 minutes are a romantic drama following Cherry and Emily (Ciara Bravo) during their relationship’s highs and lows. Then the film moves into a war film that portrays Cherry’s experiences in the army and the horrors of war. When he comes back suffering from PTSD, he becomes a drug addict and starts robbing banks.
There is a way to make this narrative work, but the Russos try to cram too many patterns and themes throughout the film that everything sinks below the surface and doesn’t make sense. The focus never leaves Cherry’s perspective, but with all the extra distraction, the world seems to act as a barrier between the viewer and the lead.
While I wouldn’t call him the film’s saving grace, Tom Holland certainly grounds the film. Unlike everything he has done before, his performance manages to have strong dramatic moments both by himself and with his costars. My issue here is that I don’t quite buy him in this role. Holland is a very quick and charismatic actor, so playing someone who is painfully underwritten and unlikable through the majority of the film doesn’t help his case. He is good in the movie, but at times it just doesn’t seem like he fits the character.
“Cherry” is a film sunk by the bold choices from its directors. It is effortlessly watchable because of how many insane decisions are made, but these choices rarely land. I don’t even know how to go about recommending this. All I know is that it definitely wasn’t for me.