Radio journalist Johnny (Phoenix) travels the country talking with kids about the past, present and future. The questions aren’t really known, but the answers are shown to us in full. We hear from kids who are worried about global warming, political strife, bullying because they don’t look or act like others, and so on. We also get simple things, like their joys, video games they’re playing and other random nuggets of youthfulness. In the midst of his latest interview, Johnny gets a call from his sister Viv (Hoffman) who requests that he watch her son Jesse (Norman) so that she can go take care of things with her estranged husband who’s dealing with an avalanche of mental health issues at an institute.
“C’mon C’mon” shows us the unlikely bond that develops between Johnny and Jesse. Whereas Johnny is the one asking questions, the script is flipped as Jesse, by obnoxiously repeating himself, questions Johnny about his past, present and future while being mum on his own. Their bonding increases when Johnny has to go back out on the road to interview kids. With Jesse in tow, Johnny continues his craft while Jesse becomes increasingly interested in the craft of interviewing as well as Johnny’s audio equipment.
So, what can viewers hope to attain from “C’mon C’mon”? That was a question I was asking myself while watching the film because I myself was trying to find meaning. My partner pointed out the fact that the kids being interviewed in the film were real-life kids, not characters, actually being interviewed by Phoenix. She also pointed out a sad truth during these interviews, which is that these kids appeared to have the same anxieties modern adults have. While her view is correct and not wrong, my view was in that same vein, but in a different direction.
“C’mon C’mon” shows us the power of not only sharing our feelings and thoughts, but the power of listening to someone else share their feelings and thoughts. Throughout the film we watch Johnny listen to kids as they let a free flow of ideas and feelings spill out. He never interrupts them or questions them, he simply listens, which might be something these kids’ parents aren’t doing at all. If that is the film’s purpose, to show us the power of shutting our mouths when someone else is talking, we get a bit of that back in the fictional part of this film.
Johnny, who’s childless, has to deal with Jesse in a way he never has. Most of the encounters he has now with kids is asking questions and listening, but once he’s in charge of Jesse, who doesn’t answer questions or share, he has to maneuver and go through a nightmarish trial and error phase, like losing sight of a nine-year-old in a crowded public setting or having to demonstrate to a child how to handle something that they themselves don’t have a grip on. Jesse, who is actually clueless about this fact, is surrounded by adults who have several emotional and mental issues that they themselves aren’t handling while attempting to create a healthy environment for Jesse. It’s kind of a perfect summary of being an adult/parent, compromising one’s own issues to ensure the happiness of others or their kids, but we see how damaging it is considering the fact that most of the real-life kids interviewed in this film aren’t happy.
“C’mon C’mon” is not a sad movie by any stretch of the imagination. It is sorrowful because of how melodramatic it can be, but that melodrama is portrayed in a realistic and believable way. Because of the film’s authenticity, with sometimes cliché material, the gentle uplifting nature of the film’s ending feels way more genuine. Even if you aren’t as charmed by the film as I was, I hope you take away the most important thing this movie teaches, stop, listen and do better, not just for those around you, but for yourself.