“C’mon C’mon”. Wish I Could Have Liked You More.

C'mon C'mon

Writer/Director Mike Mills:

In his fourth film, “C’mon, C’mon” writer/director Mike Mills comes full circle in might be called the Mills’ autobiographical tetralogy

  • “Thumbsucker” (2005 debut) mined his own teenage years
  • “Beginners” (2011) was inspired by his dad’s coming out at age 75 and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Christopher Plummer)
  • 20th Century Women” (2016) with luminous Annette Bening as an idealistic seventies single mom. Mills based Bening’s character on his own mom. The film is set in Santa Barbara as the Carter seventies give way to the Reagan eighties. Mills won his first Oscar Nomination for Best Original Screenplay for this outing.
  • and now the wonderfully titled “C’mon ,C’mon,” the inspiration in this case being the director’s relationship with his young son.
C'mon C'mon

Gaby Hoffmann (Viv).

Beautifully photographed in black and white by the great Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan ( Andrea Arnold, Sally Potter, Stephen Frears, Yorgos Lanthimos and Noah Baumbach), the movie opens with a Johnny (Jacquin Phoenix) montage. Johnny is a radio journalist who crisscrosses the country interviewing children and teenagers about their lives and their thoughts for the future. While in Detroit, he gets a call from his semi-estranged sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) asking if he can come to LA to watch her nine-year-old son Jesse (Woody Norman) while she goes to Oakland to be with her ex-husband who is having a mental health crisis.

C'mon C'mon

Joaquin Phoenix (Johnny).

Joaquin Phoenix arrives in LA looking unkept, looking as if he about to lapse into his Letterman rapper persona at any moment. Hoffmann, on the other hand is all business. She’s playing (beautifully, I may add) a sensible woman who has learned to take life’s hard knocks as they come. I really had my doubts that she would leave Jesse with Johnny no matter what the circumstances.

C'mon C'mon

Jeese and Viv.

We do get a few flashbacks documenting Johnny and Viv’s contentious relationship. They had very different views about how to deal with their mother in her final days, but we never get a real feel for them as siblings and, at at this point, I was hoping that Viv would take Jesse with her to the Bay Area and we would follow their relationship.

C'mon C'mon

Johnny and Jesse.

Of course, we don’t. Hoffmann leaves the picture, and we miss her. Norman’s Jesse is a real charmer in the same way that Jude Hill is a real charmer in Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast”. However, I never felt the scenes between Jesse and Jonny were for real whether they were in LA or, as Viv’s trip is extended (surprise!) and Johnny has to get back to work, in New York and New Orleans. Not that Phoenix is bad. He always brings a certain gravitas to a role. It’s just that, apart from the opening montage, he never seems at totally at ease with his Johnny persona.

C'mon C'Mon

Robbie Ryan and Robby Muller.

On the plus side, however, there is Ryan’s photography which kept reminding me of another Robby, the late great Robby Muller’s whose work on Wim Wender’s “Kings of the Road” and “Paris Texas” may have influenced Ryan’s beautiful shades of grey in this movie.

C'mon C'mon

A weak third act

A weak third act seems to be Achilles’ heel of Mills’ films. This was particularly true in “Women” where the characters’ arcs – particularly those of Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning (arguably their worst screen performances) began to completely dissolve as the movie movie reached it’s conclusion. “C’mon C’mon” is better than that but suffers from the same basic lack of follow-through.

C’mon C’mon is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+

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