Monday, July 5, 2010

Movie Review: Cyrus

Cyrus *** ½
Directed by:
Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass.
Written By: Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass.
Starring: John C. Reilly (John), Jonah Hill (Cyrus), Marisa Tomei (Molly), Catherine Keener (Jamie), Matt Walsh (Tim).

Cyrus is one of those independent comedies that is so painfully true at times that you cannot help but laugh. If you didn’t, you would probably end up crying. The movie is about John (John C. Reilly) who has been divorced from Jamie (Catherine Keener) for seven years, although they still work together, and has never really gotten over it. When she comes over to tell her she is engaged, he tells her it still stings. She invites him to come to a party with them the following night, and John cannot say no to her. He goes, get drunk, makes an ass of himself, but somehow attracts the attention of Molly (Marisa Tomei). They laugh, the flirt – even do so impromptu singing – before ending up back at his place. Amazingly, the next day when he calls her she agrees to see him again, and once again they end up in bed together. But both times, part way through the night Molly gets up to go home. John, curious to what is taking her away, follows her the second night and ends up in front of her house. And that is how John meets Cyrus (Jonah Hill) – Molly’s 21 year old son, still living at home.

We sense that there is something wrong with Cyrus pretty much immediately. He stares a little too intently at John, for a little too long. He says he has no problem with them dating, but he seems to be putting on a little bit of an act. He apparently got his GED 5 years ago, and has spent all of his time since working on his “music” – which to me kind of sounded like a cross between techno music and whale noises. But most of all, there is something in his eyes that just seems off. The first night John stays over at their house, he wakes up to find his shoes missing – and he has no doubt who is responsible for it.

You could see a Hollywood movie made of this same concept – hell even starring the same cast, where John C. Reilly would slip into his Step Brothers/Talladega Nights mode, and Jonah Hill would be, well, the Jonah Hill we have pretty much come to expect. Both of them would act like children, playing on trick after another on each other (and you know at least one would involve bodily fluids), while the ever patient Tomei would be the typical Apatow woman – the hot girl who waits for her men to grow up.

But this film was written and directed by the Duplass brothers – veterans of the mumblecore movement (with films like The Puffy Chair and Baghead under their belts), so the film, and its comedy, is more based on observation than a series of mindless jokes. You get the sense that if something like this really happened, this is pretty much how it would play out.

The Duplass’ depend on their cast to bring the movie to life, and they have cast pretty much perfectly. John C. Reilly is pretty much the perfect everyman – a guy well into middle age who still needs to grow up a little, and leave the past behind, but basically a good guy. He has a idealized view of his ex-wife, and comes to have an idealized view of Molly as well – until Cyrus enters the picture. For his part, Hill has never been better – more grounded then he is here. He basically is still a kid, acting like a spoiled brat who doesn’t want to lose his mommy. He is scary in some scenes, but most of the time he comes across as an overgrown, overweight child. And for once in a movie like this, the woman in the film is not just some perfect woman, but a real one with flaws all her own. In most movies, you might question why someone who looks like Tomei would fall for someone who looks like Reilly – but here you don’t. He is a nice guy, who treats her well and seems to care about her son as well. You get the impression that most guys would head for the hills when they meet Cyrus, but John sticks around. She has clung too tightly on Cyrus herself, feeding into his obsession, and allowing him to remain a child for far too long. Perfect she isn’t, and that’s what is so wonderful about her.

If I have a problem with the movie, it is the ending. I think that had the Duplass’ pushed their idea a little further, they could have made a brilliant, pitch black comedy. Instead, they settle for life lessons learned and a happily ever after ending – which works to a certain extent. Yet, I think they could have pushed this concept further, have Cyrus really go over the edge, and taken the film to a darker, but more honest place. That’s just me though, and it is a small complaint. Overall, Cyrus is a wonderful movie – honest, funny, intelligent and brilliantly well acted. What more could you want?

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