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C'mon C'mon

A dramedy with superior performances and insights aplenty about parenting and enjoying the intergenerational gap.

Don’t let this intriguing and dynamic indie slip past you. C’mon C’mon stars Juaquin Phoenix, so you know it’s going to be cerebral and sensitive, but you may not know how good his co-stars are—Gaby Hoffman (Viv) and Woody Norman (Jesse).  After admiring Will Smith’s performance as dynamic and flawed dad Richard Williams in King Richard, I was pleased also to see another about parenting, this time an uncle, Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix), and his nephew, Jesse, engaged in a coming of age for both parties. Along with mother Viv, this acting triumvirate eclipses any other in the year’s best films.

Jesse is a precocious nine-year-old disturbed by his father’s placement in a mental hospital. As Viv’s brother, Johnny, takes over for mom while she attends to dad, Johnny forms a unique bond with Jesse, often verbally parrying while learning how to parent without being a parent. Johnny is as inept at parenting as Jesse is wise about being a pre-teen, asking probing questions such as why he’s single and has no children. The questions Jesse asks of his uncle are insightful, surprisingly frank, and way beyond his grade level.

Traveling around the country from NYC to cities like New Orleans, Johnny gets to ply his trade of recording youngsters for radio about the future.  Because many of these subjects are not of Johnny and Jesse’s class and means, their answers provide a window into reality that reveals the optimism of youth with its ability to survive even these worst of times.

Jesse picks up the hobby of recording natural sounds and interviewing, even if it is just himself. His insights into the natural world help Johnny consider more than just child-development theories.

At the same time, Johnny treats Jesse as if he were much older and wiser than could ever be expected. As in Seinfeld, nothing much happens except the interior growth and emerging love from the principals. Writer-director Mike Mills makes us feel connected to this rarefied world with an unobtrusive black and white photography and a naturalism that seeps out of the unkempt city streets and unadorned dialogue.

Additionally, a stellar performance by Gaby Hoffman as the mom who stays connected by cell phone with spot-on advice for Johnny, who experiences first hand the dizzying responsibilities of temporarily guarding a precocious child.

C’mon C’mon is a holiday dramedy that will make you feel good about the challenges and unknowns of rearing children, especially the gifted ones who will teach you how to cope with the future in the present. And that naturalistic acting—well, experience it and become impatient with the methods in other films out there that don’t measure up.

C’mon C’mon

Director: Mike Mills (20th Century Women)

Screenplay: Mills

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix (Her, Walk the Line), Woody Norman (Him)

Run Time: 1h 49m

Rating: R

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at

John DeSando holds a BA from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in English from The University of Arizona. He served several universities as a professor, dean, and academic vice president. He has been producing and broadcasting as a film critic on It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics for more than two decades. DeSando received the Los Angeles Press Club's first-place honors for national entertainment journalism.