If there ever was a movie for which the viewer needs to adjust their expectations before going in, it's CYRUS. The trailers for the film imply a small, but funny & antic comedy with Jonah Hill (SUPERBAD), John C. Reilly (STEP BROTHERS) and Marisa Tomei (MY COUSIN VINNY). Why did I pick those movies to put next to each performer? Because those are the kinds of performances that the trailers imply you will see.
Instead, we get a small, wry and occasionally uncomfortable drama with moments of dry, self-effacing humor. That's not a bad thing...but I wasn't prepared to laugh so LITTLE. In fact, my wife and I laughed about 6 times, and that was 6 times more than the rest of the audience we saw it with.
What I really should say is that the film stars Marisa Tomei (IN THE BEDROOM), John C. Reilly (MAGNOLIA), Catherine Keener (LOVELY & AMAZING) and Jonah Hill in an uncharacteristically serious performance. Reilly is a loser, something he plays very well. A nice but shy guy who still isn't over his dissolved marriage to Keener. She invites him to a party, and despite some silly behavior, Tomei takes an interest in him, and the two start a relationship that is both tentative and passionate. Reilly is the kind of guy who really needs a woman in his life to spark him to action. And Tomei has the certain fragility that only Tomei can portray. All would be low-key but fine, if it weren't for the fact that Tomei also has a grown son (Hill) who still lives at home. Hill's level of ambition makes Reilly look like a power-broker...in fact, all Hill is good at is nurturing his uncomfortably close relationship with his mother. He embarks on an effort to drive Reilly away from his mom. Reilly understands what is happening, but is at least savvy enough to know that if he wants to fight back, he needs to do it in a way that will keep Tomei unaware.
The cat-and-mouse game between Hill & Reilly is the primary plot of the film. Hill is initially the aggressor (or passive-aggressor might be more accurate), but Reilly fights back admirably. This battle may SOUND funny, but it is only very modestly amusing. We may smile or chuckle at some of the games these two play...but really, it's deadly serious stuff for these two. It's the opposite of the over-the-top battles for dominance that Reilly engaged in with Will Farrell in STEP BROTHERS. We actually can believe that these are real people having these battles.
Reilly is the heart of the film. It's mostly told from his point of view, and he is a master of this kind of intelligent, shy, self-aware schlub. He knows he's very, very lucky to be involved with a woman as gorgeous as Tomei. But he's also very believable showing affection and interest. He starts out as a loser that's very hard to like, but we see the more assertive and loveable version of him emerging as the film goes on. It's one of his more nuanced performances in quite awhile.
Hill is creepy, pure and simple. His performance is mostly physical. He stands a little too close to people. He stares at them a little too long and intently. He wanders into rooms when it's clearly inappropriate to do so. He mostly speaks in a monotone that SEEMS friendly, but is laced with anger or dread or even malice. He seems DANGERSOUS, not funny. At any moment, you can imagine him snapping and literally trying to harm others or himself. This is not the stuff of wacky comedy.
Tomei is always a delight, and it's easy to see why these men are drawn to her. I wouldn't say she brings anything new to the role...but she still brings her A-game. Keener's role is relatively small, but she's always welcome in anything. Her character is a little softer than some of the brittle, heartless women she's been asked to play recently.
In the end, your enjoyment of CYRUS will mostly equal your enjoyment of the 3 starring performances. Plot specifics won't stick with you for long. There are few lines that stick to the memory. For me, even though I really like Reilly, Tomei & Keener...there just wasn't quite enough substance to make me whole-heartedly embrace the film. I appreciated that it was very dark and didn't mind painting unflattering pictures of these people. That's a great thing. But just embracing a non-traditional road does not always make for a journey worth taking. I can only give the film my most marginal of recommendations.
John, a middle-aged down-on-his-luck divorcee, meets a beautiful woman he thinks is way out of his league. Improbably, she digs him. The only trouble is her adult son, who just can't let go, and she doesn't seem to see a problem with their total lack of boundaries. The Duplass brothers follow up their quirky independent films The Puffy Chair and Baghead with an off-beat romantic comedy. While more conventional than their earlier efforts, and with a bigger … more
CYRUS Written and Directed by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass Starring John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei and Catherine Keener John: I know you’re not supposed to say this but I really like you. Is it crazy for me to say I want it to work out? Love is tricky to figure out, to piece together so that it actually works out for all parties involved. Love is particularly tricky when you’re middle-aged, have been single for seven years, you’re … more
Cyrus is a movie that flourishes as a warm feeling of both solitude and gratitude. At first I thought the story is just another dark drama but at the end it turned out to be a dark dramatic comedy. Of course the premise is kind of silly and unnatural since you are left in the middle of the story too fast with too little to follow but in time, the great execution raises the quality of the movie. It's not a great film, dazzling visually or incredibly expressive but it's … more
Mumblecore auteurs the Duplass brothers (Baghead,The Puffy Chair) dip their toes in the precarious waters of Hollywood by casting well-known actors inCyrus. But their devotion to clumsy, uncomfortable people remains: John (John C. Reilly,Step Brothers) has barely left his apartment in the seven years since Jamie (Catherine Keener,Lovely & Amazing) divorced him, so Jamie demands he come to a party--where, miraculously, he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei,The Wrestler), who seems like the woman of his dreams. Unfortunately, Molly comes with some baggage: her 22-year-old son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill,Superbad). To say Molly and Cyrus are close is an understatement, and John finds himself in a battle of wills with Molly as the prize. The Duplass brothers seek a kind of cinematic simplicity--to call it purity would be too highbrow for these aggressively pedestrian filmmakers--and when it works, it brings the viewer in intimate contact with life in its ordinary, essential glory. When it doesn't work, it's just dull. Despite its flatfooted plot,Cyrusworks pretty well. The higher caliber of the cast helps--Reilly, Tomei, Hill, and Keener are all excellent, and much of the movie is genuinely funny. Don't expect elegance, but sometimes, something plain can please.--Bret Fetzer