SXSW FILM 2010
By Don Simpson | April 2, 2010
Director: Jeffrey Fine
Writer: Jeffrey Fine
Starring: Kyle Gallner, Laura Allen, Brittany Robertson, Esai Morales, Matt Walsh
Aaron (Kyle Gallner) is a smart yet naïve 17-year old son of an overly possessive and doting mother and an awkwardly aloof father (they are divorced). Despite his mother having already picked all of his classes, Aaron seizes his freshman year – at an anonymous Ivy League university – as an opportunity to free himself from his family ties and to hopefully lose his virginity. (This initial set-up – which includes Aaron’s father handing him a note with a picture of female genitalia – seems one small step away from stumbling into American Pie terrain…)
It is not long before Aaron becomes a play toy for a cougar – a hot and troubled 30-something female classmate, Linda (Laura Allen). Aaron quickly falls for Linda despite her asshole cop boyfriend (Esai Morales), her emotionally and financially unstable personal history and their 13+ year age difference. Linda also has a 14-year old daughter – Beth (Brittany Robertson) – who quickly falls in love with Aaron. Which means…we’ve got ourselves a love triangle kids! And what a love triangle it is! Yes you might go as far as saying that Cherry is a modern/alternate take on The Graduate…you know, without the ground-breaking directing.
One of the things that writer-director Jeffrey Fine’s Cherry cleverly examines is that, if you do the math, Beth is only 3 years younger than Aaron – but that’s light-years to a college student. A college student might consider dating someone 13+ years older than they are, but they would never date someone that is still in high school! I guess I always found that kind of odd since there would be nothing wrong with a 27-year old dating a 24-year old. It seems that the younger you are, the more significant even the most minute age difference may seem.
Something else that Cherry handles quite well is the semantic transition that occurs sometime around high school or college in which female peers expect to be referred to as “women” rather than “girls” (which at a certain age is perceived as demeaning and insulting). Don’t get me wrong, that is completely logical and I see the point. But, as a male, I just find it strange that males don’t really face that same problem – but maybe that is because males typically transition from “boys” to “guys” to “men” (though it could be argued that not all males make it to the status of “men”). All in all, I think it is shocking (at least at first) to males when their female peers begin taking offense to being referred to as “girls.” Anyway…There is a fantastic scene in which one of Aaron’s female dorm-mates, Darcy (Zosia Mamet), is offended first when Aaron seems shocked by her naturalness (hairy legs and armpits) but is really perturbed when he refers to her as a girl, not a woman.
Thanks to Linda, Beth and Darcy (and his advanced Engineering class), Aaron sets off on the accelerated-track to maturing into an independent man…or at least a guy. Yes, Cherry is a clever rite of passage/coming-of-age film; but it sometimes grapples with trying too hard to be outlandish and ha-ha funny. Personally, I think Cherry would have succeeded more so if it tried less hard to develop convoluted situations for Aaron to wiggle his way out of. Cherry also seems to want to shock and awe the audience with the Linda-Aaron-Beth love triangle, but that’s a situation that really isn’t very shocking. I think at least some of the shock is diluted by the fact that Cherry also plays a very clever trick in making Linda, Aaron and Beth all comparable in terms of maturity.