Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cyrus (2010) **1/2

Several years ago I saw a movie at the Sundance Film Festival called “The Puffy Chair,” by rookie filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass. The movie was a rough-around-the-edges romantic dramedy, and not a bad little independent film. The Duplass brothers showed promise. “Cyrus” is the first thing I’ve seen from them since, and it looks like now that they have access to a bigger budget and top-notch actors, they still want to make rough-around-the-edges, independent, romantic dramedies.

The best thing about “Cyrus” is the cast, which is just bursting with talent. John C. Reilly plays John, a heartbroken guy who still isn’t over his ex-wife (Catherine Keener) after seven years. His life starts looking up when a hottie named Molly (Marissa Tomei) takes a liking to him, but things get complicated when he meets her clinging, passive-aggressive, grown son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill). From then on it’s just one annoying act after another on Cyrus’s part as he tries to split John and Molly up so he can have his mom for himself.

Yep this is one of those comedies of frustration, where we are supposed to laugh uproariously at the cringe-inducing acts of some inappropriate character. “Cyrus” is not nearly as broad as, say, “What About Bob?”, which is to it’s credit. The problem is that by making the characters and situations more real, they make it that much more difficult to find humor in the situation. The film does make the point that Molly is just as much a part of this co-dependent, dysfunctional mother-son relationship as Cyrus. That makes it harder to sympathize with Molly. I was rooting for John to just cut his losses and go find himself a saner woman.

I seriously considered ending “Cyrus” early, but the strength of the acting kept me watching, and I suppose I’m glad I did. Molly and Cyrus do sort of redeem themselves by the end, and I find that I like the movie better looking back on it than while watching it. I think the movie was mis-marketed, with the trailer seeming to suggest a raucous, “Meet the Parents”-style comedy, which this definitely is not. The Duplass brothers have a knack for working with genuine, complex human emotion, but I won’t become a real fan until they figure out how to have more fun with it.

2.5 stars out of 5

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