For Cooper Raiff, having the opportunity to finally watch one of his films in a theater with an audience this past spring was a momentous occasion.
“It’s everything,” the 25-year-old director-writer-actor-producer told me on behalf of Art U News back in April during the SFFILM Festival. Raiff’s latest feature film, Cha Cha Real Smooth—currently streaming on Apple TV+—closed this year’s in-person festival. “It’s so hard to make a movie and so lucky at every turn that you get to be there making movies. I’m so glad to just be sitting, watching a movie with other people. It’s such a nice feeling.”
Cha Cha Real Smooth follows Andrew (Raiff, S–thouse), a recent college graduate who’s still figuring out post-academic life back home in Livingston, New Jersey. His uncharted path leads him to become a party starter for local bar and bat mitzvahs where he meets and makes friends with a young mother, Domino (Dakota Johnson, The Lost Daughter), and her autistic daughter Lola (newcomer Vanessa Burghardt). Teeming with heart and humor, the film is an endearing look at navigating life through periods of uncertainty.
“I do like to think of it as a coming-of-age story for all ages,” said Raiff.
Cha Cha Real Smooth premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival this past January and took home the Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic category. In addition to Raiff, Johnson, and Burghardt, the film stars Leslie Mann (This Is 40), Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond), and Evan Assante (Dinosaur World).
Raiff’s debut feature film, S–thouse, received the Best Narrative Feature Jury Award at SXSW in 2020 and was later distributed by IFC.