Friday, June 25, 2010

Movie with Abe: Cyrus

Directed by Jay & Mark Duplass
Released June 18, 2010

A man who still considers the ex-wife who divorced him over five years ago his closest friend and has no real motivation or claim to fame in life is hardly a stirring subject for a film. Making such a story engaging requires the efforts of a skilled actor and a smart script that doesn’t turn its protagonist into a tired cliché. A strong supporting cast can also be helpful. What’s unique about this film, however, is that it isn’t only about this lonely man, John, who has pretty much given up on his search for love. It’s right there in the title – this movie is about Cyrus, the bizarre son of Molly, the woman of John’s dreams.

To call “Cyrus” a conventional love story even before Cyrus appears on screen is inaccurate. As he wanders around a party hitting on woman after woman, an increasingly drunk John determines that no woman could ever find him attractive. When Molly expresses interest and starts flirting with him, John is shocked and compares himself to social pariah and famed ogre Shrek. John C. Reilly is an extremely fitting actor to play John, given that his breakthrough performance in “Chicago” casts him as “Mr. Cellophane,” an invisible husband who sings that “you can look right through me, walk right by me, and never know I’m there.” Here, someone actually sees John’s character, and it’s only to be expected that things can’t quite be as perfect as they initially seem.

Enter Cyrus, Molly’s awkward twenty-two-year-old son who still lives at home with her and exhibits an unusual amount of physical intimacy and closeness with his mother. At first he seems simply shaken by John’s presence, and it soon becomes clear that he has it in for John because he wants Molly, who he addresses by her first name, all to himself. The familiar battle fought by the man who is clearly right but who no one believes ensues, and John must struggle to keep Molly while figuring out how to deal with Cyrus.

There’s an air of discomfort that is constantly palpable throughout “Cyrus,” as John tries to cope with the strange behavior he sees and to accept the quirks this family possesses. All of John’s interactions with Cyrus feel distant and uneasy, while at the same time Molly seems completely ignorant of her son’s strangeness. The core cast functions extremely well at nuancing these relationships. Reilly is a great unassuming lead, and Tomei is lovely as the endearing yet clueless Molly. The real breakout of the film is Jonah Hill, following the lead of his “Superbad” costar Emma Stone (“Paper Man”) and trying on a more serious role in a mature comedy. The occasionally funny and frequently uncomfortable “Cyrus” is a fresh, winning independent film that does little more but no less than tell an intimate, personal story.


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