Sexual politics turn ugly in Cherry, a movie about shallow people doing horrible things to each other all in the name of love or what passes for it in their world. Despite the film not possessing a single character worth caring about, it remains watchable thanks to some occasionally sharp writing by writer / director Quinn Saunders and co-writer / star David Crane and a finale that goes heavy on the shock value.
Brian Cherry (David Crane) is a sad and lonely man. This isn't immediately apparent because the film opens with him having a boozy night out with his best friend, Sam (Rey Valentin). Unfortunately, Sam is a brash, misogynistic alpha-male who keeps Cherry around just so he can feel better about himself. Even his offer to chat up a girl on Cherry's behalf comes with the warning that if Cherry doesn't put the moves on her, then Sam will...what a pal. In any case, Cherry boldly strikes up a conversation with the girl, Jules (Lili Bordán) who seems unusually open-minded. Perhaps it's because Sam paid her to give Cherry a chance (which he did) or she's really taken with Cherry's simplistic world-view that jibes with her idealism. In any case, before you know it, Cherry and Jules are in a relationship.
Since Cherry and Jules get together so very early in the film, you just know that major roadblocks await them. When Cherry secures a job for Jules in Sam's new business venture, he doesn't stop to consider the consequences. Sam's enterprise is based on letting common schmoes pay large sums of money to live like high-rollers for a night. VIP rooms in clubs, free-flowing bubbly, attractive women hanging on their every word...you get the picture. Not only is Jules being paid to be one of those attractive women, but when you factor in the 'Sam is a sleazoid' angle; temptation lurks around every corner. Pretty soon, Jules and Sam are having a torrid affair right under Cherry's nose. What's a sensitive guy like Cherry going to do when he finds out? I assure you, not what you're thinking.
I have to give Saunders and Crane credit. They simply forge ahead, unafraid of losing their audience with the wild tonal swings that their film goes through. It starts off harmlessly enough like a guy's take on Sex and the City with a sprinkling of raunch and bravado. Then it transitions into a fluffy romance before quickly taking a right turn into Splitsville and its accompanying mopey dramatics. With the inevitable reveal of infidelity, it turns into a tense exercise in revenge. While each piece has merits, they simply don't fit together in a satisfying, cohesive whole. Then there's the matter of that climax which completely overshadows everything that came before it, placing a firm divide in the film that many simply will not be able to get past. It features actions that are so out of character that they feel forced and gratuitous.
Speaking of characters, the film's central trio certainly gets put through the ringer. The performers are more than capable with Bordán and Valentin standing out as the cheating lovers. Unfortunately, the tonal contortions undercut their effectiveness. Bordán comes across as especially flighty (even more so than her character is intended to be). Despite having a major hand behind the scenes, Crane remains a blank slate for much of the film. He comes off as a whiney mope for much of the runtime until the very end when he transforms into something else. One could argue that this is intentional and his character is an empty vessel waiting to take on attributes (positive and negative) of those around him. This may be the case but it still leaves the film devoid of an emotional core worth sympathizing with.
Therein lies the challenge with this film. Taken as a whole, it is a cold and distant enterprise that barely gets through erecting a handful of credible characters, before viciously knocking them down. If I couldn't even identify with them when they were whole, how am I supposed to care about them once their pieces have been scattered? While it's true that for a low-budget, independent film Saunders and Crane have created something that is not easily forgotten, I have to question whether it is memorable for the right reasons.
The widescreen image is functional but hardly impressive. Heavy grain abounds in night time scenes while contrast is lacking on numerous occasions. Interior shots are much more balanced, if a little flat. Skin tones look even and colors have sufficient pop. Altogether, this is an adequate presentation for the low-key material.
The audio mix capably supports the soundtrack which makes subtle shifts with the film as it morphs. Early scenes are highlighted by breezy and upbeat music which gives way to dissonant, industrial tones as the film goes to dark places in its final act. Dialogue-filled scenes (of which there are plenty) fare pretty well which is nice since there are no subtitles to be found.
The only extra is a Trailer which reveals a little too much for my liking.
You can always tell when filmmakers love their characters. They give them rich inner lives with compelling desires and motives. Sadly this isn't true of Cherry. Quinn Saunders and David Crane sacrifice any semblance of realism by pushing their broadly drawn characters through escalating acts of abuse. With that said, the film also finds them working without a safety net (I'm thinking of that shocking climax again) in a way that at least demonstrates a purity of purpose (however unrelatable that purpose may be). Too competently made to ignore, too hollow and ugly to truly recommend; I'll split the difference and suggest the brave and curious among you Rent It.