The Inspiration Behind the Title of Sundance Darling ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’ Will Make You Smile

One of Sundance’s most talked-about movies this year has been Cha Cha Real Smooth, a sweet movie about a man who works as a bar mitzvah host and the woman he strikes up a friendship with. The movie’s lead actor, writer, director, and producer, Cooper Raiff, recently revealed details about the indie darling, including what inspired the movie’s title. 

Who is Cooper Raiff?

Actor Dakota Johnson and Director Cooper Raiff attend the closing night premiere of "Cha Cha Real Smooth"
Cha Cha Real Smooth actor Dakota Johnson and director Cooper Raiff | Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images

Raiff is a relative newcomer in Hollywood, but he’s already made a name for himself as a talented writer and director. He participated in school plays and studied acting while in high school. Raiff later enrolled at Occidental College in LA but dropped out to focus on filmmaking. 

In 2018, while on spring break from school, Raiff made a 50-minute short film called Madeline & Cooper. He uploaded the movie to YouTube and tweeted the link to filmmaker Jay Duplass, who wrote and directed movies like Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Duplass met with Raiff and encouraged him to make Madeline & Cooper into a feature-length film. It became Sh*thouse, which Raiff wrote, directed, produced, and starred in. The movie premiered at SXSW in 2020, where it won Best Narrative Feature. 

What is ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’ about?

Cha Cha Real Smooth is receiving as good of reviews as Raiff’s debut. The movie tells the story of Andrew, who gets roped into taking his 12-year-old brother to a bar mitzvah. While there, he strikes up a relationship with Domino, played by Dakota Johnson, and her autistic daughter, Lola. 

After getting Lola on the dance floor and encouraging the rest of the kids to dance, other mothers start hiring Andrew as a party starter for upcoming bar and bat mitzvahs. As he works at these parties, he continues getting close with Domino and Lola. 

How Cooper Raiff came up with the title

So, how did Raiff decide to name the movie? While talking to Glamour, the writer and director revealed that it almost had a very different title. 

“When I came up with the idea, it was just like, I think that’s what it has to be,” he explained. The title comes from the song “Cha Cha Slide,” a staple of bar mitzvahs, weddings, and middle school dances. “When I told it to Dakota and Ro Donnelly [Dakota’s producing partner], they would not let me have any other ideas. I listened to this song by Charli XCX called ‘Party 4 U’ and threw out the idea of what if the movie was called Party for You or something like that, and they were like, ‘Never talk about a different title ever again.’”

Raiff and Johnson star as Andrew and Domino, with Evan Assante playing Andrew’s younger brother and Vanessa Burghardt playing Lola. Other big names involved are Leslie Mann, Brad Garrett, and Odeya Rush. 

The other projects Dakota Johnson’s production company has in the works

Raiff isn’t the only star of the movie that had a hand in the behind-the-scenes work of Cha Cha Real Smooth. Johnson’s production company, TeaTime Pictures, produced the movie. Cha Cha Real Smooth isn’t the only movie Johnson’s company has worked on. 

TeaTime Pictures also produced the Sundance hit Am I Ok?, as well as the TV series Slip. According to IMDb, the company has a lot of projects in the works, like Daddio, which will star Johnson and Sean Penn, and The Art of Getting Lost with Margaret Qualley and Paul Mescal

With the critical success of Cha Cha Real Smooth, it looks like Raiff has proven himself as a writer and director, and Johnson has proven herself as a producer! 

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