I had liked the two Mike Mills movies I had seen (Beginners and 20th Century Women), so I was looking forward to this. I'm also a bigger fan of Joaquin Phoenix than I realized. He was in Hotel Rwanda, which I liked a lot. He starred in Her, was in the only M. Night Shyamalan I enjoyed without reservation ... I even liked Two Lovers, which also starred Gwyneth Paltrow and was a romantic drama. He has worked with interesting directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and Lynne Ramsay (and Mike Mills). If you asked me for a list of favorite actors, Phoenix would not come immediately to mind, but clearly I mostly like his work.
Phoenix does not give the only good performance in C'mon C'mon. He doesn't even give the best performance. That comes from the remarkable youngster Woody Norman. His role as a boy whose parents are struggling is central, and a poor performance could have made the movie unbearable. But Norman pulls it off and then some. (He is English, but you wouldn't know it from C'mon C'mon ... I can't easily recall another example of a young English actor doing such a great job with an American accent.) His rapport with Phoenix, who plays his umcle, is cranky, realistic, and both emotional and entertaining (even funny at times).
There are some other acting favorites of mine in C'mon C'mon. Gaby Hoffman's career has been strong, and at some point I need to forget that she is Viva's daughter. I always enjoy Scoot McNairy, and (spoiler alert) I was glad that it was Scoot and not Phoenix who played the bipolar character.
Phoenix plays a radio journalist, and Mills makes good use of a series of interviews with young people; these are real, and Molly Webster of Radiolab plays one of the interviewers. She and Phoenix and the kids add a touch of vérité to the proceedings.
C'mon C'mon is subdued and involving. It's another success for Mike Mills.