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Cyrus (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

Cyrus

Cyrus

CYRUS (2010)

Starring John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh, Diane Mizota, Kathy Ann Wittes, Kathryn Aselton, Jamie Donnelly, Tim Guinee, Charlie Brewer and Steve Zissis.

Screenplay by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass.

Directed by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass.

Distributed by Fox Searchlight.  92 minutes.  Rated R.

John C. Reilly has a certain hang-dog look of desperation that makes him very believable in this comic love story of dysfunctional families.  With his tall, gawky body, his lank curly hair and boxer’s face, it’s not exactly impossible to see him as John – a man so completely lacking in game that he gets into a romantic triangle with his potential lover’s son.

We meet the guy at his lowest ebb.  John is unhappily divorced and still clinging to friendship with his remarrying ex (Catherine Keener – who always gives a movie indie cred).  He goes to a party and does spectacularly badly at chatting up women.  He finally crashes and burns when he does his hail Mary pass – trying to actually be honest with a woman – and comes off as pathetic and just vaguely psycho.

That woman quickly bolts (run! don’t walk!) but the come-on is overheard by a cute and sweet divorcee named Molly (Marisa Tomei), who takes pity on this loser guy and sort of appreciates his honesty.  Flirtation turns into a drunken one night stand.  Or is there more there?  John can’t pick up on her signals.  John can’t figure out how a catch like her could be unattached – or at least he is so insecure that he can’t believe she would like a guy like him.

However, Tomei has a secret, too.  She only wants to come to John’s house, and then disappears in the middle of the night.  Now sure she must be married after all, he is determined to find out what Molly is keeping from him.

The answer is the title character – her spoiled and passive-aggressively over-protective twenty-one year old son (Jonah Hill).  The mother and son seem to have an oddly close relationship, in fact a tiny bit disturbingly co-dependant.  As John works his way into their world, Cyrus starts a mental and physical war of words and deeds for his mother’s affections.

Wow, Reilly must be a loser in love if he is getting into a romantic tussle with his girlfriend’s son.

That said, Reilly’s character is not exactly the abused party.  Several things that he does here veer on the slippery slope from kinda creepy to borderline stalkerish.  Just because he is our hero and we want to like him doesn’t make them any less uncomfortable for the audience.

Hell, if I were Marisa Tomei, I would have dumped him for the unwanted drunken karaoke performance of “Don’t You Want Me” that he does within moments of meeting her.  But that’s me.

Cyrus is trying to straddle the line between Judd Apatow man-boy comedy and quirky indie fare, and it succeeds a lot more than you’d expect.  After all, this plot is sort of like an inversion of the beyond awful plot for Monster-In-Law.  Cyrus, on the other hand, does some very clever things with kind of clichéd story elements.  Still, just making smart decisions about a cliché does not make it any less of a cliché.

However, what Cyrus’ writing directing team do with the cliché make the film worth seeing.

Reilly doesn’t get many shots at a leading role and he is definitely up to it, making John both pathetic and oddly charming at the same time.

Hill follows up Get Him To the Greek with his second straight shockingly smart and subtly played character study.  Earlier in his career he had a tendency to overplay things, but he is quickly becoming a very nuanced comic actor.

Strangely, Tomei’s character of Molly is the one character here that seems the least well thought out and the most inscrutable, which is kind of odd since in a very strange way she is the object of affection for both men.

It is a bit of a balancing act sometimes, and occasionally Cyrus becomes more awkward than comic, but all in all the film works well.  So if you like your dumb romantic comedies with a bit of smarts to them, Cyrus might be just for you.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 3, 2010.

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