C'mon C'mon (Joaquin Phoenix, 2021, USA)

Mike Mills' latest effort, C'mon C'mon, received significant critical accolades in 2021. The film is Mills' fourth feature and second with indie powerhouse distributor A24. It is also Joaquin Phoenix's first starring role since his acclaimed performance in Joker (2019). This role is much different than the one he played in Joker. Here he plays a radio journalist named Johnny, who is asked by his sister Viv to watch her nine-year-old son Jesse in LA. Viv's husband Paul is suffering from mental illness. Johnny is pressured to return to work, and Jesse is allowed to tag along with him.

The premise is familiar - the childless guy having to come to terms with having a child on his hands. C'mon C'mon does not do much with this premise. Yes, there are moments of laughs, and moments of tenderness. Phoenix is about a solid anchor for this plot as there could be. Jesse is a precocious child who asks deep questions about life and forces, Johnny, to ask deep questions about himself. C'mon C'mon is unfortunately a movie that feels truly self-satisfied with its wisdom. 

One annoying aspect of the film is Johnny's repeated interviews with the kids. We are sure Mike Mills had the best intentions with these interviews, but the platitudes spouted by the kids feel false and the whole endeavor feels forced. Essentially this whole movie could be distilled down to a simple lesson: adults don't have all the answers. It's a shame because there are some admirable things about the film - notably, the black and white cinematography. C'mon C'mon is a film that occupies a kind of precious world that does not resemble reality, although the film seems to aspire to exist in the real world with real problems. Not worth seeking out except for Phoenix devotees. 



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