For his third film as director, J.D. Dillard adapts the 2017 biography Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by author Adam Makos. The film shortens the title to Devotion and introduces audiences to the comradeship between naval officers Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) and Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) during the Korean War.
C’Mon C’Mon guides by on the rapport between Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman
After a five-year hiatus, Academy Award Nominee Mike Millis returns with his latest drama, C’mon C’mon from A24. Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) is a radio journalist living in New York working with his team Roxanne (Molly Webster) and Fernando (Jaboukie Young-White) on a project where they interview kids across the country about their thoughts on the future.
One day, Johnny decides to make a trip to the West Coast to visit his somewhat estranged sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) and his nephew Jesse (Woody Norman). We learn that Viv is separated from her husband Paul (Scoot McNairy) during the visit. Things take an unexpected turn when Paul has a mental
breakdown and Viv decides to go and care for him.
Deciding he wants to improve on their relationship, Johnny offers to take care of his nephew. Unexpectedly thrown together, Johnny and Woody forge a tenuous but transformational relationship that takes them across the country. Following his 2005 debut Thumbsucker, which was an adaptation of the same-titled Walter Kirn novel, director Mike Millis’ subsequent two films were taken from his personal experiences.
2010’s Beginners took its story from Millis’ own father coming out of the closet, while 2016’s 20th Century Women paid homage to this mother. Millis’ latest feature is inspired by a conversation the director had with his son during bath time. Millis chooses to shoot the film in black & white, which looks glorious on the big screen. In his first role since his Oscar win for 2019’s Joker, Joaquin Phoenix does a total one-eighty with his acting performance as Johnny.
Phoenix brings a suitable nuisance to Johnny as the character goes through the joys of caring for a child. The moments where Johnny has to deal with Jesse asking a plethora of questions were very relatable, as were the instances when Jesse wanders off, causing Johnny to go into panic mode. Woody Norman has primarily done work in television; however, he is excellent in his first feature film.
Mike Millis’ script avoids making Jesse overly cutesy or more intelligent than all of the adults. Instead, he allows Jesse to come off as organic and a bit wise beyond his years but still understands that he is a kid. Gaby Hoffman, who I was a fan of going back to Field Of Dreams, was also enjoyable in her role. I liked the arc that Millis gives her as he avoids turning the character into an overbearing sister. Instead, he lets her have her story and keeps the focus on Johnny and Jesse. The remaining support cast does not have arcs, which is fine, as the film does not need to give them one.
I do want to point out that the film is very dialogue-driven and slow burning. That said, the film did keep my attention and was a nice break from your standard blockbuster. While I doubt C’mon C’mon is something that I will revisit or that the film will make it into my year’s ten best.
Nevertheless, the chemistry between Woody Norman and Joaquin Phoenix is undeniable, which warrants a one-time view for fans of indie flicks.
Final Grade : B
C’mon C’mon opens in theaters this Friday November 19th
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