Cyrus turns out to be one the nicest surprises of the 2010 summer movie season, and what makes that even more surprising is that it is quite the black comedy. While it is heartwarming at times without being overly mushy, it also features a lot cringe and wince inducing moments regarding its subject matter. John C. Reilly stars as John, a lonely man who has never fully recovered from his divorce seven years ago. His attempts to start conversations with women at a party come across as desperate and will be hard to watch for those who have dealt with the same embarrassing rejection in the past (as for myself, I will be pleading the 5th). But while he is relieving himself next to a tree, he is met upon by Molly (played by Marisa Tomei) who breaks through any awkwardness that could follow by saying:
Both John and Molly instantly click, and the chemistry between them both is so strong that you cannot help but be happy for the both of them. We’re always on the hunt for that one person that understands us perfectly, and when John and Molly come together, you feel the same feelings they do which can be wonderful. But things do get a little strange as Molly ends up sneaking out of John’s apartment in the middle of the night, and she keeps doing that time and time again. After not getting any answers, John ends up following her home after one evening and comes to meet the other man in Molly’s life: her 20 year old son. Still living at home long after he should be, Cyrus has a very close relationship with his mother. Some would say that it a little too close for comfort. I don’t know of many other 20 year olds who would walk into the bathroom while their mother is taking a shower. From that point on, a war develops between John and Cyrus as to who will capture Molly’s heart, and of who will be the main man in her life. It sounds like Highlander without swords and beheadings! THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE!!!
If you are worried that Cyrus is going to be a modern day adaptation of the tragedy of Oedipus, don’t get over excited. It’s actually one of the most human comedies I have seen this past summer. It’s not necessarily the kind of comedy where you laugh out loud every other minute, and much of the humor comes out of the more uncomfortable moments that catch you off guard, and from the sly cleverness of the characters, especially Cyrus himself.
Cyrus is played by Jonah Hill who has been a dependable comic actor in films like Superbad, Funny People, and this past summer’s Get Him To The Greek. With this role, he steps out of his comfort zone in kind of the same way Seth Rogen did when he starred in Observe and Report in playing a character with serious issues. On the surface, Cyrus seems like an innocent young man who is a little weird. But as the movie goes on, he proves to be a calculating manipulator of emotions which allows him to gain the upper hand. There’s no doubt this kid loves his mother, and the lengths he will go to have her full attention appear to know no bounds.
This movie represents the best work Jonah has done to date as his character of Cyrus is much more complex than any other character he has played. With this role, he doesn’t have to jump around like crazy to get a laugh, and he plays the character in all seriousness. The funniest moments for Jonah come about when he appears very calm while sporting that really creepy stare. I also loved the scene between Hill, Reilly and Tomei when Cyrus is trying to move back home. John encourages him to face his fears over leaving safety zone. But speaking in a soft voice while glaring at John as if to say “you can’t beat me fool,” he gets the upper hand and makes his mother see that moving back in with her is really a victory for him, and he convinces her it is not a defeat. All the while, his eyes betray his true emotions and spell out how much he is getting a kick of getting his mother back from John. Damn this kid’s good!
John C. Reilly continues to prove to be one of the best everyman character actors working in movies today, and he wins us over playing a character like John who starts out looking all pathetic, but who ends up coming out of it all believably as a good natured guy. That’s regardless of the lengths he will go to in keeping Cyrus from ruining his life. It’s been a good ten years or so since Reilly came to everyone’s attention in Boogie Nights, and he shows no signs of faltering.
As for Marisa Tomei, she continues to be irresistible in every movie she’s in be it this or The Wrestler. She is as talented as she is sexy, and the chemistry she has with John C. Reilly is so strong that they just work off of each other beautifully. You love her as Molly even though she has some problems, and even she has to come around to face them.
With roles like these, it becomes a question of balancing comedy and drama as you can’t play for the laughs, but you also can’t overdo the emotional notes. While it may all look easy, it is tremendously difficult, and it takes a lot for actors to get past their self-conscious ways to pull roles like these off (especially in a movie with such a low budget).
Cyrus was directed by Jay and Mark Duplass who previously made Baghead. They ended up shooting this movie with a digital camera, so everything looks very normal and refreshingly down to earth. This fits in perfectly with the story and the characters as it all takes place in a world we live in on a daily basis. The camera captures everyone’s imperfections both physical and emotional, and it succeeds in drawing us into the movie even more.
That’s the I really loved about Cyrus, these characters feel so real. So many other movies like these, be it romantic comedies or just plain comedies, have the same contrived feel and the same characters who are just running through the motions as dictated by a formulaic plot. But here, these characters have very visible character flaws like anyone else, and we recognize those same flaws within ourselves. Seeing these people get over them and become better human beings makes Cyrus all the more entertaining to watch. You come to really care about all these John and Molly, and you even come to care about Cyrus himself even if the impulse to strangle becomes very strong.
In a summer filled with remakes and sequels, which as time goes on makes me NOT want to go out to the movies, Cyrus is refreshingly original for those willing to travel down its twisty comedic path. It’s not for everyone, but those who can appreciate a black comedy (or dramedy as some people call it), there’s a lot of great stuff to find.
***½ out of ****