After receiving the Audience Award at the 2022 Sundance Festival, Cha Cha Real Smooth made its way to Apple TV+ to entertain viewers with the quirky yet woeful reality of being a college graduate with no direction. The indie film utilizes many tropes commonly seen in coming-of-age dramedies, allowing it to take its place amongst audience favorites.
Coming-of-age stories aren’t exclusive to a single age group and can be initiated by various life experiences. This has allowed the genre to steadily evolve and live on, generation after generation. So, while it is easy to see similarities between Cha Cha Real Smooth and movies like Laggies, there’s also some crossover seen between it and beloved romcoms like The Wedding Singer.
The Fundamentals Of Caring (2016)
Streaming On Netflix
It’s not uncommon to find snarky yet loveable characters in coming-of-age movies and there is no shortage of cynical angst in Netflix’s The Fundamentals of Caring. In the movie, Paul Rudd plays a retired writer who takes on the position of caregiver to Trevor (Craig Roberts), a teen with muscular dystrophy, as they embark on a cross-country road trip.
The two face many challenges along the way, often brought on by another, but through it all, they form a bond that helps them both on their journeys to peace and maturity. Similar to how Ben (Rudd) was able to find growth within himself while caring for Trevor, Andrew, played by writer and director Cooper Raiff, did the same through his friendship with Lola, a preteen with autism played by Vanessa Burghardt, in Cha Cha Real Smooth.
Streaming On Showtime
Keira Knightley and Chloë Grace Moretz star in Lynn Shelton’s R-rated comedy, Laggies, which follows a soon-to-be 30-year-old who has seemingly done everything “right” but still feels lost. After a few questionable decisions, she is forced to reevaluate the direction of her life and acknowledge the maturity it will take for her to get on the track she wants for herself.
While drastically different from what audiences are familiar with in Knightley’s iconic period piece roles, the actress still delivers a multi-dimensional character that viewers can judge and root for. The actor performances may differ, but the main character journeys in Laggies and Cha Cha Real Smooth are written with so many similarities that it’s almost impossible to watch one without thinking of the other.
Uptown Girls (2003)
Streaming On Tubi, Pluto TV, & The Roku Channel
The age-old trope of the adult who’s holding on to their youth while being forced to confront society’s expectation for them to grow up was around long before Cha Cha Real Smooth. It is especially seen in the treasured early 2000s movie, Uptown Girls.
A young Dakota Fanning and the late Brittany Murphy were the perfect pair to breathe new life into what could’ve been a played-out story. Unlike Cha Cha Real Smooth, viewers can enjoy an almost outrageous juxtaposition between the leads in Uptown Girls. However, both movies remain similar in concept and quirky nature.
The Way Way Back (2013)
Streaming On HBO Max
Toeing the line between quirky and uncomfortable is not something that all movies can accomplish. The Way Way Back is able to keep from dipping too far into either side, resulting in an enjoyably realistic coming-of-age story. By the end of the movie, the once painfully awkward teenager Duncan, played by Liam James, is still awkward but now he can see that those qualities deserve to be embraced rather than used against him.
Characters who come of age doesn’t necessarily mean they completely change who they are. The Way Way Back and Cha Cha Real Smooth both allow their characters to experience growth without requiring dramatic personality changes.
The Spectacular Now (2013)
Streaming On Showtime
Miles Teller stars alongside Shailene Woodley in the 2013 romantic drama based on Tim Tharp’s book of the same name, The Spectacular Now. When avid partier Sutter Keely (Teller) sets his sights on the unsuspecting Aimee Finicky (Woodley), their romance quickly consumes the two. The less-than-healthy relationship leads both characters down destructive paths with an ending that remains unknown to viewers.
Both Sutter and Andrew (Raiff) have been living their lives with little thought of the future, but where Sutter has seemingly no regard for those he hurts along the way, in Cha Cha Real Smooth, Andrew shows remorse when others are negatively impacted by his poor decision making.
Girl In Progress
Streaming On Starz
Girl In Progress shows what can happen when internal growth is forced too early and too fast. After being introduced to classic coming-of-age concepts by her high school teacher, Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) takes it upon herself to check off all the “necessary” life experiences she needs to become an adult. This leads to bad choices, hard life lessons, and the inevitable realization that coming of age cannot be controlled.
The similarities between Girl In Progress and Cha Cha Real Smooth may be a little less obvious but the heart of the story is still there. They are two characters who are unsure about the next stage in their life so they latch on to what they think will offer them direction or control. In Andrew’s case, it’s love, and for Ansiedad, it’s forced life experiences.
Streaming On Hulu
Olivia Wilde’s feature breakout hit, Booksmart, was filled with wit, humor, realism, and relatability that audiences couldn’t help but flock toward. On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic overachievers (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) realize that they’ve missed out on their high school experience for seemingly no reason. With limited time on their hands, the two try to pack as many experiences as they can into one night, which unsurprisingly doesn’t go to plan.
Like Cha Cha Real Smooth, Booksmart was an audience favorite when it was brought to streaming after its festival debut (SXSW). The two films share thematic commonalities with each other and many other coming-of-age movies, but the skillful execution of Booksmart is what attracted its now cult-like following that is also seen with movies like Superbad and Adventureland.
The Wedding Singer (1998)
Streaming On HBO Max
After three films over three decades, the chemistry between Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore is undeniable. In their first movie together, The Wedding Singer, Sandler plays a wedding singer who gives up on love after being abandoned at the altar but later falls for a woman he befriends (Barrymore) while helping her plan her wedding.
The blooming love story in Cha Cha Real Smooth may not have the same feel-good ending but the similarities in relationship status and even the main characters’ professions are all there. Strangely, Cha Cha Real Smooth could be seen as the inverse of The Wedding Singer – same but different.
Never Been Kissed (1999)
Streaming On Netflix
The 90s delivered when it came to feel-good classics. In the 1999 romcom, Never Been Kissed, starring Drew Barrymore, audiences watch as 25-year-old Josie (Barrymore) poses as a high schooler for the sake of journalistic research. She does so at the same high school she attended as an unpopular teen almost a decade before.
Characters in both Cha Cha Real Smooth and Never Been Kissed are thrust back into their hometown at what should be a pinnacle of their lives, both lost – one in who they are and the other in where they’re going. While their stories are drastically different, audiences watch them both struggle, fail, and eventually find their way.
Paper Towns (2015)
Rent On Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, & Apple TV
Based on John Green’s best-selling book of the same name, Paper Towns shows how obsession can often distort infatuation into love. Nat Wolff stars as Quentin, a high schooler who sets out to find his long-time neighbor and enigma, Margo (Cara Delevingne) when she disappears from town, leaving behind elaborate clues after the two reunited for a night of pranks and adventure.
The same lost-in-love message can be seen in Cha Cha Real Smooth. Both Andrew (Raiff) and Quentin believe they have found love in a woman they barely know. They are infatuated with what they’ve seen in the limited time they’ve spent together and while both women are just out of reach, they can’t help but chase after them.
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