Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo in ‘Cherry’ Movie Review: Bank Withdrawal
Fans of Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo will be pleased Cherry gives them so much to do. It’s almost too much. The story doesn’t really kick in for about 80 minutes. It’s a good story, but does not require as much setup as its given. It does show growth from directors Joe and Anthony Russo after their four-film Marvel stint, although some of the same issues with bloated, sprawling stories.
Tom Holland IS ‘Cherry’ and Ciara Bravo IS Emily
Cherry (Holland) meets Emily (Bravo) in college. They fall in love but Cherry enlists in the Army. He goes through Basic Training and does a tour in Iraq. When he comes home, he uses heroin to cope with PTSD and gets Emily addicted too. So he robs banks to pay for their habit.
See, that took one paragraph to set up, but Cherry spends five of its eight parts (including prologue and epilogue) setting up the desperation for bank robbery. It’s surely reflecting the structure of the Nico Walker book, and it’s not to diminish the realistic experiences of veterans, but it could have been an economical 20-30 minute first act. It’s not a hard leap to make from war to addiction, and the extra hour of film doesn’t make it any more or less sympathetic.
Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo run the gamut in ‘Cherry’
The meat of Cherry is when Emily decides to do heroin with Cherry and when he goes to extremes to support their habit. They have some Trainspotting-esque capers, and one powerful scene has Cherry rob a bank while going through withdrawal.
Holland and Bravo get to play the extremes of their characters. They begin as college students who’s primary concerns are their love lives. It is valid to see those carefree characters and think about them later when Cherry and Emily will do anything for a score. It could just be a bit more concise.
Cherry goes through the military, too. There’s a bit more of a gradual transition in his performance, although Cherry spends much of his military time hiding his true character, lest drill sergeants or fellow soldiers see him crack. That, too, makes Cherry’s break when he returns to civilian life all the more drastic. Holland also breaks the fourth wall and explains his robbery method to us.
The Russo Brothers give ‘Cherry’ more style than Marvel
To be fair to the Russo brothers, they joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Phase 2 when there was already a style established. They just had to conform, although they thankfully dropped the handheld shakycam from Captain America: The Winter Soldier by the time they did Avengers: Infinity War.
With Cherry, the Russos let cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigle convey a lot more with the camera. Considering so many scenes take place in bars, restaurants, dorms and college parties, he gives them direction and intention. Basic Training takes on a Wes Anderson sort of symmetry but with more camera movement.
Additional fourth wall breaks give Cherry’s story a surreal quality, but never goes off in a full Terry Gilliam direction. War scenes look like real vehicular incidents staged in the desert, not green screen like most Marvel action. Cherry has powerful moments in filmmaking, and in Holland and Bravo’s performances. It feels like brevity may have enhanced that power.