23 Jul

Title: Cyrus
Year: 2010
Directors: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Writers: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei,  Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh
MPAA Rating: R, language and some sexual material
Runtime: 91 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

I’m a huge fan of the Duplass brothers, I think their style is unique and is exactly the sort of style I personally admire, if not irrevocably enjoy, and in Cyrus they work with a trio of actors I’m also a huge fan of, John C. Reilly, a guy who’s as versatile as they come, Jonah Hill, one of my favorite young actors, Marisa Tomei, who apparently looks hotter every day, and add into that mix Catherine Keener in a supporting role, and she’s just all sorts of awesome, so, you see, there was, in my mind, no way in hell Cyrus was going to be bad.

The thing about Marisa Tomei is that she’s immensely likable, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t find her charming and lovely, and in this film she’s as likable as ever, when she has her grown son, played by Mr. Hill, and her new boyfriend, played by Mr. Reilly, rivaling off over her. All she wants is for them to get along because she loves them both, but her boyfriend, John, just wants to be alone with her and her son, Cyrus, is incredibly possessive of her, as possessive as one would be of a girlfriend, though there really isn’t any assumption of incest in here at all, but it’s like that, as though these were two men who wanted to get it on with the same girl and they had to battle it off.

John starts being okay with it all, he obviously knows he can’t have her alone forever and really thinks she may be the one, but Cyrus is just so protective that he’s always meddling in, using her mother’s feelings towards him to get her to choose him over John. This is a film about passive aggression and this sort of rivalry that’s hidden so that Molly, Ms. Tomei’s character, doesn’t notice it much, and that creates great situations, full of an awkward sort of funny that works wonders with such capable minds like those of the Duplass brothers at the helm and those of Hill and Reilly to portray it on screen, using a helluva lot of improvisation in the films brightest moments.

This is a very controlled film, there’s a complicated situation at the center of it, but the actors and directors cleverly don’t jump from one joke to the other, but instead take their time, exploring the emotional complexities behind it all, letting it all linger and creating this sort of uncomfortable feeling to it all, especially in those scenes when Cyrus behaves like a baby and is all over his mom to create jealousy in John, who can’t believe Molly doesn’t realize what’s going on, but who fears that if he says something about him she’ll take Cyrus’ side and be done with him.

I think Jonah Hill is terrific, I’ve said so for a long time now and think he is, alongside Jason Segel, the funniest member of the Apatow clan and definitely one of the funniest men in America nowadays, and in this film he’s great as he tackles a different sort of role, a different sort of funny, this performance is more nuanced than the one’s he’s given before, he has to pretend to like John but do little things to slowly tick him off, the way he and John C. Reilly play off each other in these scenes is terrific. And that’s not to understate the performance of Marisa Tomei, she’s also fantastic because her role is one that has to be played calmly, a woman who has a grown son who’s way too dependent on her and who’s all alone romantically, and desperately needs a real man by her side.

It’s a film that deals with this sort of social awkwardness we can all relate to, and the Duplass brothers explore it nicely aided by great actors that get this offbeat comedy to shine brightly, this is seriously smart acting, all of which has a lot of improvisation to it and is based on a great chemistry by Mr. Reilly and Ms. Tomei, that makes their character’s relationship so believable, and a humor from Jonah Hill completely different from what he’s done before. A very welcome effort by the Duplass brothers, who go admittedly more mainstream in this one and not so much along their previously designated mumblecore route that was appreciated by some like me, but rejected by many others, so yes, this is a huge step forward from everyone involved, and one we can all enjoy.

Grade: A-


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