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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Discover the Awkward Dark Delight that is Cyrus

Cyrus = 4 out of 5
Cyrus: It's great to finally have a new dad...[laughs] you really have to get used to my weird sense of humor.
A comedy that functions well based on both its heavily improvised performances and the awkward nature of the situations these characters find themselves in, made better by the subtle glances exchanged by the leads. A humorous movie working off of an old story, but never feeling gimmicky.

John C. Reily stars as John, a lonely man, divorced by his wife Jamie, played by Catherine Keener, several years ago. One night, Jamie and her new fiance Tim, played by Matt Walsh, invite John to come with them to a party. John accepts, but doesn't get very far in making new friends...until he is flirted with by Molly, played by Marisa Tomei. Molly, also lonely, finds John charming and immediately strikes up a relationship with him.

John: I'm like Shrek. What are you doing in the forest with Shrek?
Despite having a nice first couple dates with Molly, John is soon put off a bit by the fact that Molly keeps leaving him at night, so he decides to follow her. John then discovers that Molly has her 21 year old son living with. The son is Cyrus, played by Jonah Hill. Cyrus was apparently home-schooled, has a passion for making music from synthesizers, and is very, very close to his mom. John accepts this, and as it would seem, Cyrus seems to accept John for being someone to make his mom happy. However, one morning, John's shoes is suddenly missing...?
Cyrus: You're out of your league.
A large part of what makes this film work is Jonah Hill's performance. It would be way easy for him to make Cyrus a very broad character and completely evil. However, the performance is wisely kept in a zone of uncomfortable and inappropriate, which may not be a compliment, but at least doesn't serve to make him completely unsympathetic. The work Hill does here is very good, delivering a lot of dead pan material, giving off the appropriate vibe of a needy child, and working as a solid foil to John.


The film was directed by Mark and Jay Duplass, who are large forces in the realm of "mumblecore" films. These types of films are ones that involve non-actors, low budgets, and not a script, but a lot of improvised performances based around a concept. Here, for the first time, the Duplass' have enlisted big name actors to star in their film, which certainly pays off. John C. Reilly, no stranger to improv, is in perfect sad teddy bear form, easily working his through all his scenes, being funny, full of pathos, and especially effective at providing the perfect reaction shot whenever necessary. Tomei is also up to the challenge, managing to feel both sincere and up to sparring with Reilly and Hill. Certainly nice to have Keener around as well, because what would an indie film be without her at this point?
Cyrus: Seriously, don't fuck my mom.
The film certainly follows a familiar formula, and hits those third act beats the way one could guess it would, but I was not bothered by it mainly due to how much I was enjoying the performances of these characters, especially being that the majority of the film is based around improvisation. In a lesser film, the Cyrus character could probably build in such a negative way that the resolve wouldn't feel appropriate; but the care done here ensures a conclusion that is more organic.

Along with hiring some bigger stars, the Duplass' have also seem to broaden their film-making talents as well. Set in LA, its not exactly pulling off sweeping camera shots, but everything feels pretty right for how this was filmed, in terms of being a human comedy; and the Michael Andrews score helps supply those quirky beats.

Overall, a solid low-budget comedy, that plays well off of the improv talent stemming from the leads.
John: Your son hates me and I gotta say, I really fucking hate him too.

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