Major apologies to Tom Holland and the iconic directing duo of Anthony and Joseph Russo, but sadly, their upcoming movie Cherry is nothing to write home about.
Reduced to its simplest level, Cherry follows Tom Holland as the title character, a troubled man who faces a series of unfortunate events.
Through the eyes of the trailer, the movie seems fast-paced, witty, and almost-comedic as the camera focuses on Cherry’s terribly-awful life; from his enlistment in the United States Army in the early-2000s to his destructive, drug-fueled relationship, all the way to his stint spent as a bank robber.
However, as titillating as this sounds, in retrospect, the movie has the excitement and drive of a poorly-written Lifetime flick.
Sad to say, the brief prologue was the best part of Cherry. This scene takes place in 2007, and it shows Holland in a never-before-seen state— not even in his latest dark drama on Netflix, The Devil All the Time.
He is introduced as Cherry with a sunken face that’s paler than usual. He appears to have scrapes and bruises littering his body, and he despairingly says, “Sometimes I wonder if life was wasted on me.”
Through this segment, the viewer is introduced to his inner dialogue that guides the story. We also come across his consistent breaking of the fourth wall for the first time.
Things die down quickly in Part One, subtitled “When life was beginning, I saw you.” Transporting its viewers further back to 2002, this section is dedicated primarily to introducing Cherry’s main love interest, Emily (Ciara Bravo). She is described as his “one true love.”
The couple first meet in a college English class and then quickly fall head-over-heels in love after getting reacquainted at a local party. Although they confide in one another and have a few steamy moments, there’s nothing overly engaging about the couple or their “meet-cute.”
It was at this point where things really get boring. In short, she dumps him to transfer to a school in Montreal, and Cherry decides to enlist in the Army because he wants to find “a sense of purpose.”
It’s already become clear by this moment that Cherry lives in poverty.
But unfortunately, the most intense moment seen in part one of the movie was when he was royally screwed over by a bank that kept charging him overdraft fees — even after he paid his total “in cash,” they told him, “well, it wasn’t processed in time.” Not really thrilling stuff.
Part Two: Basic (2003)
Things pick up right away in part two, but not in a good way. As made obvious by the subtitle, this section detailed Cherry’s time spent in basic training for the Army. The segment opens with a smaller ratio on the screen and a fisheye-like camera angle.
It zooms the audience through the desensitization process of training. The drill sergeants are abusive and angry, and the training process causes the enlistees to be stripped of their personality and sensitivities.
It’s nothing to be expected in an advertised romantic-drama, and it definitely took things a couple of notches too far. This portion was loaded with racial and sexist slurs to show the United States military complex’s warranted criticisms; however, after about twenty minutes, it got tiring— and despite that, part two never seemed to end.
For a good portion of the movie, it seemed to focus on characters who utter racial slurs against the Iraqi community in every other word from their mouth. It got to the point where it was visibly cringe-worthy and began to feel a little sickening.
While those emotions may seem purposeful, throughout every scene, Cherry’s “goodness” is brought to the forefront. Cherry is different; he “cares” about the Iraqi people, he directly hands a small child an MRE (that she subsequently gets jumped for), and he always knows what’s the right thing for the militia to do.
It was a painfully obvious contrast, one that was entirely useless at a point in the movie where the only emotional connection that one has for Cherry is the fact that he’s played by Holland. It was a classic-case of relying on the cast to make the story appear better than it is.
The rest of the movie
Before Cherry shipped off to war, he and Emily were wedded. He returned from war to a starter home — purchased by his parents — and a load of PTSD and prescribed medications.
He quickly finds himself addicted to his pills and relying on them to make it through the day. Wanting to keep their marriage intact, Emily begins taking them in order to handle Cherry’s erratic behavior.
The two lose themselves in a Kurt Cobain and Courtney Loveesque relationship. They are grungy and unclean and simply at the center of each other’s downfall — Cherry more so than Emily.
They were supportive of one another when it came to the intensity of their love and their mutual addiction to drugs, but, still, at no point did their relationship prove to the audience why they should care.
So, what it seemed like was watching two strangers do a bunch of drug-addled, dumb things and get themselves into a sticky situation.
They befriend a man named Pills & Coke (Jack Reynor) — creative name, huh? — and he hires Cherry to house a locked safe that’s filled with unidentified items until it is time for transport. Of course, Cherry and Emily break into the safe and use a majority of the drugs, thus finding themselves in major debt to a hierarchy of drug dealers.
This is what leads Cherry to begin his journey of “kindly” robbing banks. He shoves guns in the faces of multiple women bank tellers and asks them for all of their money, reassuring them that he will make sure their bosses don’t fire them.
He tells one, “I’ll flash a gun at your boss so you won’t be fired,” and she shoots back, “Is that supposed to make you a good guy?” Exactly.
That one interaction sums up the entire movie.
Sitting at two hours and twenty minutes, it’s hard to justify watching Cherry. It simply never goes anywhere. Despite the victims, the overdoses, and the accidental murder, the movie never develops beyond its constant insinuation that Cherry is a good guy.
Yet, it also never gives its audience a reason to support him.
It’s difficult to remember that the movie is based on a true story as real-life people deserve solid redemption arcs — some just aren’t movie-quality, not without some sprucing up or, at the very least, some humility.
One thing that stood out through the movie is its use of experiential directing. The Russo Brothers were not afraid to try something new, inserting quick cuts to close-ups and profiles of the characters into random scenes.
They also tested out creative camera angles and subliminal messaging — naming the banks things like “S****y Bank” and framing an egg sandwich with a heroin-filled syringe on top in one scene. However, rather than elevating the movie, it just looked like something that an amateur, like Mark Cohen from RENT, would screen to their friends.
As the hype for this movie was real, it’s disheartening to say that it was a hit and a miss—a major disappointment from such a talented crew.
Cherry arrives in theaters on February 26 and on Apple TV+ on March 12.