Starring: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh
Director(s): Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Writer(s): Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Cinematography: Jas Shelton
Original Score: Michael Andrews
Running Time: 91 mins.
This is it, mumblecore has made its way into the mass market, directors Jay and Mark Duplass are festival darlings having wowed critics with their low-key films The Puffy Chair and Baghead but here they have attracted the talents of John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, and just for good indie measure, Catherine Keener, the one thing that is likely going to double the takings for this film is the inclusion on frat-packer Jonah Hill, darling of the most recent crop of Apatow laugh-a-thons and quite frankly he is the most mis-leading ingredient in this oh-so-indie picture, downplaying to perfection with the rest of the cast do not enter Cyrus expecting the next Get Him To The Greek or Superbad for you will be in for a rather nasty shock.
As is the nature of mumblecore the actors are fed a very loose script and encouraged to improvise, not such much for comic effect (though naturally that comes given the right actors) but rather for realism and authenticity of a situation. The situation in point here being the simple setup of divorce John (Reilly) meeting the delectable and also single Molly (Tomei) at a party thrown by John’s ex-wife in order to a.) celebrate the impending wedding of said ex-wife and b.) to set John up with a new woman, predictably it’s not plain sailing and for a while (two days to be precise) John and Molly are all hunky-dory…enter stage left Molly’s grown up son Cyrus, suffice to say a battle of wits between Cyrus and John ensues for the attention of Molly.
If this sounds like a potential set-up for many hilarious set pieces, it isn’t, at least not in the hands of the Duplass brothers, down-played to the point where the comedy on comes spontaneously rather than from forced gags, intelligent maybe but it is likely going to prove a little too “subtle” for the majority. What is left to savour is the drama of this family dynamic, one which allows plenty of room for some great acting, and I don’t mean De Niro style method acting, rather the nuanced character led type that have become synonymous with the films of Noah Baumbach on a more commercial level, although many directors on the festival circuit take this approach.
None of the character’s are played for likeability, with a sense of realism again coming to the fore and it is in the scenes between Cyrus and John that both the biggest laughs and best acting is to be found, from Reilly this proves typical of a man who has continually proved his worth regardless of the material be it a Will Ferrell comedy, such as Step Brothers, or something more serious like Boogie Nights. From Hill it is surprising, not so much because of his resume but rather that he hasn’t had the chance to play it down or allow for character tics rather than much broader Apatow-esque humour, this is a welcome revelation and Cyrus is afforded a rounded personality, not likeable but not an all out cretin.
Where Cyrus falls on a base level is in the direction that remains low-key throughout but has a tendency to use the zoom-in jump cuts that have become common-place with low budget horror of late (The Last Exorcism/Paranormal Activity) something which here takes away rather than adds to scenes, it is a device that can build tension appropriately but when it is used in the course of normal conversation it’s like watching your friend with an unwieldy DV camera, not big or clever, and often robbing the dialogue of focus, not good when minds can easily wander in using this conversational and unfocused style of scripting.
Cyrus won’t be for everyone, and most will likely walk away having not got what they expected, while a handful will likely appreciate it for what it is mean’t to be, a character study of a dysfunctional (read “real”) relationship that has funny moments despite rather than because of the set-up.