Comedies based around a romantic triangle are as old as film itself. A ceaseless variation of the classic set-up of boy meets girl meets another suitor pop up each year. What you don't see that much in mainstream cinema is an Oedipal complex tinged comedy with the story of boy meets girl meets adult son of girl who have an extremely close, dysfunctional bond.
Cyrus is here to cover those bases, delivering a quirky comedy loaded with awkward moments that leave the viewer uncomfortable while laughing at the same time.
John (John C. Reilly) is still reeling from his divorce, his life is an acute combination of loneliness and depression. He is past the point of caring and projects those attributes onto everyone he meets, including women at a party he was coerced to attend by the ex-wife (Catherine Keener).
When your pick-up lines involve how far you've fallen into a hole of misery in explicit detail, it's not likely you're going to change your social life. Even the homeliest girl at the party wants nothing to do with John. It might be hopeless for the lovable sad sack.
Then, he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei), a beautiful, quick-witted woman who is not only listening to him babble on, she seems to be enjoying herself. All of a sudden, John is head-over-heels ga-ga regarding Molly, cleaning up his crappy apartment, making her dinner and giving her all the puppy love looks he can muster, while trying not to scare her off. Molly seems perfect -- too perfect for John to believe his good fortune.
There's a catch, right? Of course. Molly has a 21-year-old son named Cyrus (Jonah Hill) who really, really, really loves his mommy. Cyrus still lives at home and appears respectful to Molly and John's new relationship at first. Appearances can be deceptive though as he's got a deeper agenda brewing in his strange mind: Destroy their relationship to protect the mother/son cocoon they've lived in for 21 years.
John and Cyrus begin a delicate dance for Molly's attentions. Neither wants to be the villain, and both use Molly's guilt, emotions, confusion, doubt and trust to be the last man standing in her life. It's a dysfunctional mess that John has found himself in, but he's no beacon of normalcy as John adds to the inappropriate relationship on screen. Instead of two screwed up people, there are now three.
Hill's Cyrus is truly a weird little character for a summer release. A man-child hidden in Hill's deceptive girth, Cyrus loves to compose synthesizer songs inspired by nature and just hang out at the house with Mom for hours on end. He's stunted and messed up, that's obvious by his behavior and thousand yard stare he delivers repeatedly. The film never explores whether he has legitimate psychological issues, or is just protective of his link with Mom -- is he just eccentric or is there a deeper, more troubling issue lurking?
Part of the charm in Cyrus is the fact it doesn't try to explain, or fix, the behavior of the three main characters. None of them are strictly what you would call "normal," but I never wanted them to be. It's a comedy after all. The appeal of a comedy is to be thrown into an odd world where no big moment of healing is a must-have sequence at the end of the movie. Leave that for the dramas.
I loved that these are damaged people, lost in the hard-to-stop maelstrom of familial attachments who find it difficult to change. The fact the film doesn't have these explanations might be off-putting to some viewers, I found it refreshing.
There's a dark edge that begins to emerge from Cyrus as the characters begin to unspool their co-dependent ways with one another. Written and directed by the brother tandem Jay and Mark Duplass, they prefer a loose conversational style of talking that feels almost improvisational. The Duplass' are great at tapping into the slightly off-kilter layers of human interaction and their dialogue is full of unexpected left turns.
The characters say pointed things to one another that might appear to have too much raw honesty. Cyrus' cast is made up of well-known Hollywood actors, but the tone is little different than previous Duplass' films such as Baghead (2008) or The Puffy Chair (2005).
Working with their usual low-budget aesthetic, the look of the film is that of camcorder filmmaking -- all soft focus, poor lighting, rapid zooms and fidgety camera movement. I think "VHS" every time I see a Duplass movie even though they are not actually shot on old-school video. The low-tech style and naturalistic dialogue create a level of intimacy not found in glossier, bigger budgeted films.
Cyrus probably isn't for everyone as it has a unique, low-key style and takes the romantic triangle to a peculiar new land. If Grown Ups is your idea of humorous comedy at the multiplex, this probably isn't for you. Jay and Mark Duplass' latest is full of people unconscious of their various forms of arrested development, mother and son and mother's new boyfriend collide to produce one of the most interesting, cringe-funny comedies of 2010.
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