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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Deft Blend of Comedy and DramaJan. 8 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
A film starring John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill is going to attract a certain audience...And that is not the correct audience for this film. While Reilly is an accomplished dramatic actor, he's become well-known for appearing in successful comedies lately; Hill is best-known for his work in the Apatow-cannon. Cyrus is the type of film the average moviegoer dismisses as "too weird" or "not funny," which both miss the point entirely. To use a term I'm not fond of, Cyrus is a "dramedy," that seamlessly blends both comedy and drama avoiding cheap punchlines and dramatic, emotional cues. If you think Step Brothers is the "best movie ever" and you're expecting typical Jonah Hill-fare, this is not your movie. If you watch it with an open mind, you'll find it quite rewarding.
John C. Reilly plays John, still wallowing in loneliness seven years after his divorce. Now, his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener) is getting re-married and she takes John to a party in the hope that he'll find himself a girlfriend. He does, in the form of a beautiful woman named Molly (Marisa Tomei). When John becomes curious about Molly's secretive nature he follows her home and meets her 21-year-old son Cyrus (Hill). Cyrus comes off a bit weird, but friendly but John notices the relationship between Molly and Cyrus is rather unconventional; they share a close bond that borders on the near incestuous. John becomes suspicious of Cyrus' motives very quickly, but finds himself in a rut not wanting to damage his new relationship with Molly.
The film moves at a very quick pace and boasts a solid script although writer/directors Jay & Mark Duplass do allow their actors a lot of room for improvisation. Their characters are rather unconventional, but realistic and the film plays off their reactions to the awkwardness around them perfectly. There's a refreshing dynamic between the characters too, especially between John and his ex-wife Jamie. This is not a bickering, spiteful former couple but a mature, supporting one. They have a camaraderie with each other that we don't see often and it doesn't seem like a stretch. The always reliable Catherine Keener is perfectly charming and believable as a woman who wants her ex-husband to find happiness and is willing to set aside important things in her life to lend an ear.
Much of the film is an exercise in understatement. Reilly has proved his acting chops, but it's nice to see him take a break to do something a bit more down-to-earth. He nails the role of the confused, but well-meaning John who has finally found something special and is determined to make it work. Tomei is always good at playing sweet, but she has to add a level of maturity, dedication, and obliviousness with slightly Oedipal overtones into a convincing, subtle performance. In doing this, she makes a complicated role effortless. Hill hasn't gotten too much notice for his performance, but it's a substantial turn from his typical stuff. The role of Cyrus requires Hill to seem well-mannered, manipulative, and child-like while still getting an audience to empathize with him. This is a psychologically complex role that Hill really steps up to the plate for. His performance as Cyrus is really something special and a small step into proving himself as an actor that can handle both comedy and drama. While he doesn't completely abandon that Jonah Hill persona, there are more layers to this performance than many will admit or give him credit for.
The roles are well-written, but it's the understated performances that really bring these characters off the page. Had any actor made a slight misstep, it could've derailed the film's credibility. This is especially true in a film that relies on character interaction, where the slightest wrong nuance could've killed a whole scene's credibility. This is a film that relies on it's actors ability and there's some great comedic banter between John and Cyrus, each trying to gain the upper hand for Molly's affection juxtaposed with some very realistic, dramatic exchanges. The dialogue isn't flashy movie dialogue; it's very subtle, straight-forward and has much more of an impact in the loose, improvisational delivery.
The film's cinematography (even for those who don't know what cinematography is) may take some getting used too. It makes frequent use of the zoom lens and feels amateurish, but it eventfully becomes apparent that it's perfectly suited for the tone of the movie. As I said, this is not a film for the people the marketing tried to gear it towards. Many will be disappointed, but you've been warned.
Cyrus is a wonderful surprise. An understated, underrated, low-key blend of comedy and drama that provides chuckles and a fair amount of poignancy. It's a smart film that gives some terrific actors the chance to really make use of their skills and it's one of my favorite films of 2010. If you're in the mood for something a little different, you'll find Cyrus to be quite a treat.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Paean to the Passive AggressiveJan. 26 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
No, I don't usually like movies that feature quite a bit of improvisation and jerky cinematography. Nonetheless, 'Cyrus' has enough crazy moments in it, that it's actually kind of funny. This is not your usual laugh out loud comedy. Rather, it's a farce where we're asked to laugh at (not with) a set of sharply defined, passive-aggressive character types.
A central characteristic of the passive-aggressive personality type is that he/she rarely is able to express anger in a direct, forceful way. Instead, the anger is expressed in a series of short, aggressive bursts and passive retreats. The passive aggressive personality lives in a pressure cooker and inevitably must end up exploding. But once the explosion is over, they will end up where they started: in the same passive aggressive holding pattern, leading nowhere. Passive aggressives can also be thought of as belonging to the larger family of masochists who enjoy inflicting pain on themselves by not really letting go of their anger--by the same token, they appear to enjoy engaging in minor skirmishes, where they may win a minor battle or two but never can truly claim victory in an 'all out war'.
At the outset of 'Cyrus', we see that we're dealing with some very screwed up passive aggressive types. John's ex-wife, Jamie, aggressively enters his house without telling him and then catches him masturbating. At first, her reaction is normal, heading for the door, shrieking with great embarrassment after catching him in the act. But after listening to his lame explanation that he had "jock itch", Jamie passively tells him she didn't see anything and the confrontation dies.
If the characters in Cyrus were merely neurotic losers, the film wouldn't be very funny. Wisely, the film's scenarists, the Duplass brothers, also infuse their characters with some endearing qualities. John is spontaneous when he leads a group of party goers in the Human League's 80s hit, 'Don't you want me baby'; Cyrus has some great talent as a keyboardist/composer of electronic pop music; Molly is uninhibited and non-judgmental when she acts on her sexual impulses and Jamie is a supportive ex to John who suffers from low self-esteem.
But despite all the endearing qualities, the Oedipal conflict is too strong from preventing the two male suitors from going to war over the affections of Molly, torn in her roles as both mother and lover. There's a great scene after John moves in with Molly where they're about to make passionate love in the living room when Cyrus (who has let himself in), casually turns on the light and in a deadpan delivery, blurts out, "Sorry for interrupting". Instead of expressing their true feelings of genuine anger over having their lovemaking interrupted, John meekly exclaims, "Good to see you" and Molly, in an even more weak and half-assed voice, whispers, "Hi!"
There are other moments where Cyrus will do something outrageous such as going into the bathroom while his mother is taking a shower and John passively stews but takes no action. Not all of Cyrus' stratagems are necessarily passive aggressive posturing. When he decides to move out of his mother's house, he's clearly trying to manipulate her and succeeds; she's so wracked with guilt that she welcomes him back with open arms when he informs John that he intends to move back in (there's also a short kiss on the lips betraying the incestuous relationship that exists between mother and son).
Molly is also guilty of blatant passivity in the form of being a classic enabler. She's constantly making excuses for Cyrus by maintaining that he's been "going through so much" (taken in by his fake panic attacks and outright manipulative behavior). John's ex-wife, Jamie, also has a problem in confronting reality when she tells John that she believes Molly and Cyrus are perfectly normal--ignoring Cyrus' quirky behavior in ordering John to climb a tree, act like a 'jaguar' and scream at the top of his lungs.
The Second Act 'dark moment' (if you can call it that), is when John and Cyrus get into a fight at Jamie's wedding. Cyrus explodes in a jealous rage over John and Molly's continuing relationship and John retaliates over Cyrus hiding his shoes. This incident actually causes John to step out of his passive aggressive ways and speak plainly to Molly, when he asserts, "Open your eyes". The acceptance of reality is short-lived: Cyrus passively begs John's forgiveness, invites him back to the house and John meekly accepts at the film's end. Presumably, this truce will be short-lived and one has the distinct expectation that the minor border war between John and Cyrus will pick up soon enough again.
'Cyrus' is really a one joke idea focusing on the unhealthy relationship between the two male principals. The humor comes in the variations of the passive aggressive behavior of the characters. 'Cyrus' is not unlike Larry David's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' which is another kind of study of the passive aggressive personality. Not everyone will dig the humor of 'Cyrus'; but for the more patient film-goer, there are moments of true mirth that will pop up, as this exercise in passive aggressive shenanigans, plods along to its fitful conclusion.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A pleasant surpriseJan. 2 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
If you decide to watch this movie based solely on expectations from the noteworthy cast because of their previous roles in mainstream comedy hits, you might be disappointed. This is not slapstick, in-your-face humor that will make almost everyone laugh - and therein lies the beauty of it for me! It wasn't at all what I was expecting to see when I rented it.
The relationship between Molly (Marisa Tomei) and Cyrus (Jonah Hill) - which consistently straddles the line between beautiful and disturbing - is rattled by the introduction of John (John C. Reilly) into their lives. The issues that arise are the crux of the humorous conflict that drives the story.
It bounces back and forth between the feel of a quirky romantic comedy, a darkly humorous satire and a low-key drama. It all combines to make a subtly played-out, ludicrous and well-acted tale. I loved it!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Serious issuesApril 21 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
John C Reilly got all the attention, but it's Jonah Hill who kicks butt as the "mama's boy from hell". It's certainly a low-budget Indie effort, but I applaud all involved; Marisa Tomei plays a woman at wit's end, Reilly plays a loveable schlub, and Catherine Keener watches it all from afar as if nothing could be more fun.
It's a new take on an old story, except the "kid" is in his 20's. I enjoyed the film; some clever banter. Reilly got some award recognition, but it's Jonah Hill who makes it all interesting.
I'm glad I rented it, but wouldn't buy it for future viewings.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Excellent movieDec 29 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
I watched Cyrus twice and would watch it again soon. Overall, a very funny and interesting movie that had us genuinely laughing out loud - especially in the first half hour. The acting was excellent, with some very subtle, great scenes with John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill.
I could see this being a movie you'd need to be 'in the right mood' to watch, but give it a try.