Sunday, June 27, 2010

CYRUS (2010)

Written & Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. June 22, 2010  1:00PM

In "Cyrus", the latest sharp comedy from the Duplass brothers, John (John C. Reilly), is a lonely and slightly depressed middle-aged man. He hasn't really dated anyone since he split with his wife seven years ago.

His ex-wife, Jamie (Catherine Kenner) has just announced that she is getting remarried which sinks John even lower. John and Jamie are inexplicably, still very close and she invites him to attend a party with her and her fiance. She thinks it will be a chance for him to meet someone nice.

At the party, John doesn't have much luck meeting anybody so he decides to just get drunk. Later, an attractive woman named Molly (Marisa Tomei) chats with John and there is a connection. They have a great time and end the evening in bed together.

The next morning, Molly is gone but she left a note with her phone number. They go on another date but Molly can't stay the night. She is vague on the reason but John thinks she could be the one and is desperate to know what's going on with her.

So John decides to follow her home. He discovers that she has a grown son still living at home with her. Cyrus (Jonah Hill) is a chubby, twenty-two year old man-child who doesn't seem do much beyond being creative like taking photographs and making electro music for his DJ gig while his mother fawns over his accomplishments. Molly and her son are extremely close and although John finds it slightly strange, he is more than willing to accept this as part of the deal.

Although Cyrus comes across as mature and seems to welcome John with open arms, it soon becomes clear that he is not about to share his mommy with anyone. It's not long before John becomes aware of this but he is not about to give up his newly found girlfriend without a fight. Threats of violence, emotional blackmail and missing shoes are some of the arsenals used in this fight until it culminates into a physical brawl between the two men in this battle for the love of Molly.

There really isn't much of a heavy duty plot here but I did appreciate how much care was given to showing us who these characters are. In fact, although "Cyrus" is a dark comedy, there is not one single joke in the film. All of the humor is found in the quirky behavior of these characters. Since this film is mostly improvised, it says a lot about the talent of the Duplass brothers because that is much harder to do. I would have liked to have seen the film go darker and had created even more of a dramatic conflict between the guys. I think it would had shaken up that feeling of predictability and made an even stronger film.

All of the lead actors give their usual solid performances but special mention should be made about Mr. Hill. He is certainly well known for his comic gifts like in the films, "Superbad" (2007) and this year's "Get Him To The Greek" but I think he is underrated as an dramatic actor and gives a fine nuanced performance as the title character.

The Duplass brothers were part of the mumblecore film movement, which is similar to the Danish, Dogma 95, that made largely improvised films that were about personal relationships on a very low budget like their first films, "The Puffy Chair" (2005) and "Baghead" (2008). This time they have added name actors, a larger budget, top producers (Ridley and Tony Scott) and a major studio to the mix but still stuck to the core fundamentals of a mumblecore film.

"Cyrus" is a sweet, very funny and entertaining little film. It's a refreshing change of pace for a typical summer movie and it shouldn't be missed.