Pulling in a powerhouse performance, Tom Holland checks all the Oscar boxes. Shell shock, uncontrollable sobbing, drug addict, they’re all there. The movie itself is an amalgamation of many categories without knowing which one to choose. Is it a crime thriller? Is it a love story? Is it a movie about addiction? With yes to all three, the different filmmaking styles clash in an uneven picture to only be saved by its lead actor.
I wished by the end of Cherry; it is revealed that Mr. Holland’s character was based on an actual person. Now that would be a wild story! Especially with that horrible final shot that looked like something straight out of a “say no to drugs” P.S.A. The passage of time works wonderfully structurally. A title card details the years, along with an overhead drone angle. The appearance of the actors’ ages isn’t as seamless. Somehow from 2007-2020, Cherry morphed into a picture of my dad from the 70s. His companion in all of this, Emily (Ciara Bravo), seems to permanently be stuck living in the body of a 17-year-old girl. I know Mr. Holland and Ms. Ciara are in their early twenties, yet I couldn’t help but cringe during the love scenes.
Unable to find gainful employment after serving in the military, Cherry gets hooked on heroin. Not before long, perhaps thanks to his combat experience, Cherry continually robs banks successfully through an innovative scheme of writing his threats on a sheet of money. After being in the combine for so long, Anthony and Joe Russo thought of making an edgy film without realizing it. The intentions to Cherry might be present. To me, it felt like a pitch meeting from guys who are too satisfied pleasing everyone rather than themselves as artists.
After spending years perfecting the MCU, the Russos wanted to go in a fresh direction. Still, they didn’t know where to go, so they came up with a story that tackles as many categories as it could without drawing too much attention to itself. Imagine Forest Gump if it was about Forest turning Jenny into a meth head. I picture one of the brothers saying, “what if we get Spider-Man hooked on smack?” Unable to figure out which category the audience loves most, Cherry attempts all of them with mixed results.
At its best, Cherry appears to be a painfully accurate portrayal of the armed services. Playing the greatest hits from Full Metal Jacket and Generation Kill, Cherry paints an accurate picture of the young men in the hot zones who are bread as murder machines, only to be left traumatized or killed. These young soldiers’ casting is perfect as they all look like scared kids instead of guys who are in their mid-20s to early 40s. Why Cherry becomes an addict is easy to guess from the terrible things he has seen in war. The bank robbery angle takes an “I bet you’re wondering how I got here” approach. Starting the film fro a letter spot is an old narrative crutch, intended to keep the audience hooked throughout the picture’s 2-hour 20-minute length. Moving the story straight without altering the timeline would have been more effective, letting the audience feel how heartbreaking Cherry’s mental and physical decline becomes.
I almost forget how to mention this is a love story since the love story isn’t that memorable. Standing beside Tom Holland’s spectacular performance is no easy feat. One that, unfortunately, Ciara Bravo can’t match. Although it’s not entirely her fault since she’s written as a co-dependent, emotional train wreck that can’t let go of her junkie boyfriend. Finding a memorable moment from Ms. Bravo’s performance is difficult to pinpoint, considering this movie is an exclusive acting reel for Tom Holland. The picture wants me to care for the love story, but it fails to get me interested in Cherry’s girlfriend. With the story so heavily focussed on Cherry himself, Emily is an afterthought. A character for Cherry to bounce his emotions on.
Undoubtedly Tom Holland will be receiving some deserved recognition for his work on this film. The man shows every range of emotion from states of pure mania to elation, seamlessly. Dumping almost all of that feeling in one man’s lap is a lot to take on; when Tom does it though, he makes everyone else look almost like an amateur next to him. If only the film were as laser focussed as Mr. Holland was.
Cherry goes from copying Goodfellas to Trainspotting in mere seconds, almost making it tone-deaf. Its over reliance on digital cinematography doesn’t help as the color palette is almost too flat. Everything looks like an early Marvel film where color correction was left as an afterthought. One particular shot is done in slow motion, where you can see the sensor struggling to resonate with the same speed film does flawlessly, giving the movie an unintentional artificial look. Despite its artificiality in cinematic technique, Tom Holland’s acting is natural, making Cherry an experience worth looking into.
You can stream Cherry on AppleTV+ today