Posted on 2.3.21: Sian Heder ‘s much-adored, Sundance award-showered CODA (Apple +, 8.13) is moderately appealing and nicely made for the most part. Understand, however, that it’s an “audience movie” — aimed at folks who like feel-good stories with heart, humor, romance and charm.
It’s about a shy Gloucester high-school girl named Ruby (Emilia Jones) with a decent if less than phenomenal singing voice. She’d rather attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music than work for her deaf family’s fishing business, we’re told. The film is about the hurdles and complications that she has to deal with in order to realize this dream.
CODA is one of those “real people struggling with life’s changes and challenges” flicks, but given the fishing-off-the-Massachusetts-coast aspect it’s fair to say it’s no Manchester By The Sea — trust me. It’s a wee bit simplistic and schticky and formulaic -— okay, more than a bit — and contains a fair amount of “acting.”
For my money Jones overplays the quiet, withdrawn, still-waters-run-deep stuff, but it’s an honest performance as far as it goes — she has an appealing, unpretentious rapport with the camera. Eugenio Derbez‘s performance as an eccentric, Mexican-born music teacher is probably the film’s best single element. Bearded, baggy-eyed Troy Kotsur and 54 year-old Marlee Matlin are engaging as Ruby’s live-wire parents.
Matlin and Kotsur are the source, actually, of some clunky sexual humor (frisky parents noisily going at it during the late afternoon, randy Kotsur urging chaste Ruby to make her boyfriend wear “a helmet” during coitus, that line of country). Except the jokes don’t really land, or at least they didn’t with me.
CODA is okay. It works here and there. It didn’t give me a headache. I can understand why some are enthusiastic about it. It deserves a mild pass. Heder is a better-than-decent director.
Friendo: “It’s a by-the-numbers family romcom with an added progressive-minded openness for the deaf.”
Emilia Jones in Sian Heder’s CODA.