Directed by: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Premise: A single man (John C. Reilly) meets the woman of his dreams (Marisa Tomei) but her manipulative and passive aggressive son (Jonah Hill) comes between them.
What Works: Cyrus falls into that odd area between comedy and drama. The tone of the story is generally very melancholy but many scenes have an off-beat awkwardness to them that gives the film a healthy sense of humor and makes the characters real. The three lead cast members of Cyrus give a trio of very strong performances. John C. Reilly gets to be the leading man (as opposed to the sidekick roles he is usually relegated to) and he holds the film together. Reilly’s character is vulnerable and even needy but the actor is able to make himself so empathetic that the audience will cheer for him and want the relationship to succeed. As the son, Jonah Hill steps away from the goofy roles he has played in Judd Apatow films and plays a borderline sociopath. But like Reilly, Hill is also able to find an empathetic angle on the character and present him as a boy in a man’s body. Marisa Tomei’s performance has a lot to do with Hill’s success in the film, as she plays a mother who enables her child to indulge adolescence into adulthood. Although Tomei is not given as much depth as Hill or Reilly, she makes the most of the role.
What Doesn’t: Cyrus is guilty of falling into the traps and clichés of contemporary indie-films. There are a lot of quirky characters, and their quirkiness is less based on narrative or artistic choices than it is an attempt to spice up the melodrama. Also, like a lot of hip indie-dramas, Cyrus presents very real and intimate conflicts between characters but then turns to sitcom-style resolutions, where a complex issue is solved with a big speech or an emotional outpouring by a main character. Most notably, in an attempt to give Cyrus a gritty or realistic look, much of the film is shot with a handheld camera and uses whip pans and sudden zooms that are distracting to the viewer and don’t have any apparent storytelling function. Cyrus isn’t a bad film; in many ways it is a better film than other independent dramas, but viewers who have seen Sideways, Rachel Getting Married, Little Miss Sunshine, The Squid and the Whale, or Juno will recognize a lot of the techniques present here.
Bottom Line: Cyrus is fine film and those who enjoy off-beat films will likely enjoy this one as well. It isn’t ground breaking but the performances make it a fun film to watch.
Episode: #300 (August 8, 2010)