Cherry hits theaters on February 26, and on Apple TV+ on March 12.
Avengers: Endgame’s Joe and Anthony Russo, who have now spent the majority of their filmmaking careers in the trenches of the MCU, switch gears for a sullen and sulky dive into the unwell mind of trauma and addiction in Cherry, featuring Marvel’s own friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Tom Holland. But Holland’s riveting, anti-Peter Parker turn here isn’t enough to save Cherry from being a struggle to get through.
Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Nico Walker, Cherry tells the story of an introspective Holden Caulfield type, from a hard-knock area of Cleveland, who joins the army after a bad break-up only to wind up severely wrecked by his wartime experience overseas as a medic. He crash-lands back home, adorned in medals, with very few recourses other than to escape via heroin — and then bank robbery to support that horrific lifestyle loop.
The film itself is separated into named chapters, like a book, and that helps slice up the story into more digestible pieces, but it never fully prevents Cherry from falling into a repetitive rut of feelings and themes. Drug addiction is a heavy topic and films about it can be a thick wall to chisel through. Cherry doesn’t offer up anything new nor does it tighten its runtime for the sake of brevity. So the end result is, well, nothing you haven’t seen play out in other movies about maladjustment, anxiety, and drug use.
As mentioned, the acting is quite compelling here. Most of it falls squarely on Holland’s shoulders as he’s not only the lead but also the narrator and a fourth-wall breaker. Nothing happens here outside of Holland’s scope as he’s in practically every scene, and when he’s not in a moment his voice still looms over it.
Most of the sad-sack characters who orbit Holland’s unnamed character (though he’s supposed to be “Cherry”) feel overly quirky and ornamental, as they’re always viewed through his eyes and he’s a borderline sociopath. The one exception is Ciara Bravo’s Emily, Cherry’s long-suffering partner who winds up meeting his madness halfway and getting torn to pieces in the process. Bravo’s showing is a strong second here, but overall the film is still Holland’s clunky cart to pull.
The gimmicky entryway for Cherry is that it’s from the directors of some of Marvel’s most complicated, and rewarding, films, starring arguably the most likable MCU actor. But it’s a wholly different story and the MCU star is delivering the goods in an Oscar bait-ish role that’s a far cry from what most people are familiar with him doing.
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Once you get through all that webbing (heh) though, there’s some really good stuff in Cherry that can exist on its own merit. It can, at times, offer up quiet devastation. It’s just that, all lined up, it’s a slog that needs a trim down. It’s ambitious, sure, but threading multiple stories together, each of which could be their own movie really makes for a lot of bad bloat.
Cherry certainly has a distinct vibe to it, which is sometimes darkly comedic, and it’s definitely a welcome and ambitious swerve for the Russos and Holland, as the latter says he never wants to stop playing Spider-Man but also wants to play someone other than a teenager (The Devil All the Time, Uncharted, etc), but the movie regurgitates a familiar story (several, in fact) while stretching things out to a sometimes unnerving degree.
Source: IGN.com Cherry Review