Cyrus (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Cyrus (2010)

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ANDREW LIKECyrus is the kind of film that stays within the comfortable margins of its performers but still manages to be fairly affecting.  I've been a huge fan of John C. Reilly for years, and have not quite jumped on the Jonah Hill-backlash wagon quite yet, so it was nice to see the two of them sparring onscreen.  It's a film that revels in this awkward duel, but doesn't stand above them in a mocking way.  It's that understanding that leads this away from "pleasantly assembled" and into "pretty good" territory.

The opening scenes establish the kind of awkward humor that you'll be experiencing in the film.  John (John C. Reilly) is enjoying a quick moment alone with his hand and some techno music while his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener) comes in to give him the bad news and catches him in the act.  She's there to tell him that she's getting married again, and wants to help get him out of his dingy apartment and meet someone.

Broadly speaking these opening moments, and to be fair the rest of the film, reek of indy-quirkness.  It's just so ironically/dramatically perfect that his ex-wife picks while he's masturbating to break the news to him, and most of the situations are set up with the same kind of unfortunate timing.  Thankfully Keener and Reilly are seasoned pro's at this sort of stuff, and manage to inflict their characters with the empathetic pathos they're so good at.

It's unfair to pigeonhole John C. Reilly into the sympathetic man of loneliness, but hot damn he's great at it and doesn't disappoint here.

The film trudges onto the party where John makes some nakedly emotional statements of loneliness to several unwilling to listen ears but is overheard by Molly (Marisa Tomei).  She kind of digs the fact that he's willing to put himself out there like that, and strikes up a conversation with him.  They connect in their mutual need to squelch that isolation and start the first healthy relationship either has had for some time.

All seems well until John goes to Molly's house and meets Molly's son Cyrus (Jonah Hill), a case of arrested development who lives with his mom and works on his music.  Cyrus puts on a friendly face about the relationship but soon John's shoes are missing, questions about Molly and John's sex life are raised, and eventually Cyrus just flat out tells John that they are at war for Molly's affections.

These moments between John and Cyrus give the movie a creepy and disarmingly honest edge that most indy claptrap is missing - they're also engagingly constructed.  Their first meeting and conversation is a great came of casual one-upmanship.  Cyrus invites John in to be the gracious host, then John offers to cook dinner, Cyrus asks questions about John and Molly's sex life, John responds honestly and it all leads to the moment where Cyrus walks into the shower with his mom while John sits on the bed in disbelief.

Cyrus the synth-master, a moment that could have been groan inducing but manages to be fun partly because he's writing some pretty good music.

The shower moment could have been handled with an Oedipal undercurrent but the Duplass brothers play it with more empathy.  It's just been Cyrus and his mom for over twenty years and he hasn't known anyone else.  Their relationship is of comfort to them, and they never grew out of the casual encounters that most learn to be ashamed of when they grow older.  Like, for example, showering with your mother.

This empathy extends out to everyone and makes for some wonderful scenes.  Everyone has their own issues to work out and it just so happens that maybe they've finally collided with each other to make an off-kilter family unit finally work as a whole.  It ends charmingly, and with a pair of honest conversations that do their damndest to make sure we empathize with why Cyrus is so horrible to John and how badly John and Molly need each other.

It all worked wonderfully for me.  The film is assembled off the quirky shelf from indy cliches that have been slowly working their way into the mainstream, but the Duplass brothers manage to make it fresh and surprisingly empathetic.  I hope they ditch the shaky hand camera soon, but am looking forward to see where they're able to go from here.

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Cyrus (2010)

Written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass.
Starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill and Catherine Keener.

Posted by Andrew

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