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Cyrus

(2010)

Directed by

Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass

 

Review by Todd Plucknett

Posted - 7/11/10

 

I really do not know of anyone who was anticipating this film as much as I was. I am a huge fan of Mark and Jay Duplass. People may be unfamiliar with their previous work in the so-called “mumblecore” genre, but this takes those barebones roots and combines them with a terrific cast, perhaps the most interesting and brilliant cast of the year so far. Anyone who gives this movie a chance will most likely be at least impressed with its realistic nature and insight into relationships, the staple of mumblecore films. This is an absolutely brilliant film that will rank with the best films of the year.

The film centers on John (John C. Reilly), a recently divorced guy who has seen his life sputter since the divorce. He has a strange and clingy relationship to his newly-engaged ex (Catherine Keener), and at a party that she invited him to, he meets beautiful and available Molly (Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei), and they hit it off. In an awkward confrontation days after, he meets old her 21 year old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill). He has about the strangest relationship to a mother imaginable. At first, they seem like the perfect pair. Later, however, Cyrus’s agenda comes out, and the film changes moods to more of a quirky mainstream comedy in the vein of Step Brothers, but for only a little while. The heart and realism that the Duplass brothers express in all of their films is in this film as well, and it ends in just about the perfect way.

The acting here is beyond flawless. John C. Reilly plays a character that is unlike anything I have seen him do before. His character is easy to root for, yet we find ourselves challenging his intentions at times, especially when he unravels and goes too far. Marisa Tomei is flawless. The Duplass brothers wanted an actress who was going to make Molly a fully fleshed-out character, so who better than Tomei? Her character is a lot like Cassidy from The Wrestler. Catherine Keener is amazing as always, providing a heart and sensitivity to that character that might not have otherwise been present. Jonah Hill steals the show, though. It is nothing like he has ever done. He completely nails every nuance, and his dramatic and comedic timing are impeccable. The audience really has no idea what is going on in his head, and that is difficult to do. He deserves a nomination. Seriously.

The tone of Cyrus is a bit darker than one may expect. The trailer seems to be a bit light, but the film really pulls some punches. It is at times painfully funny and at times just devastating. Each and every character gets its chance to state their case, and you can really feel the authenticity in their actions and words. Some have criticized the ending as being too conventional or not being satisfying for how the rest of the film was going. I cannot agree. The film has so many different tones and these characters are so crazy and inventive that it only makes sense that it would wind up like that. Maybe I am just defending a film that I love, but I really found complete satisfaction in how the Duplass brothers were able to wrap this up by sustaining the realistic nature and appealing to the masses.

The previous films of Mark and Jay Duplass are Baghead and The Puffy Chair. Both of these films are well worth checking out, as is this one. Baghead is a haunting little indie that gets under your skin. The Puffy Chair is their best film so far. It may seem like a typical road movie, but it is so full of life, melancholy, and insight that it is impossible to not get caught up in. The Duplass brothers typically have almost no budget, which results in them casting themselves (Mark particularly) and their friends (Lynn Shelton, Greta Gerwig, etc.). This always made the films feel even more personal and heartfelt. Cyrus takes those same elements and atmosphere and mixes it with an A-list cast, which makes this little indie with almost no plot seem almost like it is mainstream. However, the character of John is so much like Mark Duplass in other films that it almost is as if the screenplay was so good that Fox Searchlight would not let them just make this film and have only a small minority of filmgoers see it. They turned it into a fantastic little film that is “just one of their films with some famous people and a nicer camera”, as they stated in an interview on Encore.

Mark Duplass is a face that some people may recognize. He is one of the leads in the hilarious Fantasy Football television series The League. He was the heart and soul of Humpday. He appeared briefly in Greenberg and a few other independent films. He is such a brilliant performer, and that intelligence pours out into the films he and his brother write and direct. The music element in the films (Cyrus is an aspiring musician) is always present, reflecting Duplass’s previous music career. The mumblecore genre is where these directors belong, and hopefully this cast can bring people to seek out their previous work.

So, should you see this film? Absolutely. If you enjoyed their previous films, you will see this regardless. I will compare it to Greenberg and say if you liked that, then see this by any means necessary. If you disliked it (Zach…), then you might want to think twice. If you are a Jonah Hill fan, then you have to see this. He is shockingly good. If you enjoy films about relationships, this is the best one that will likely come out this year. Hopefully this cast can bring in a whole new audience to the film. It is good enough to be one of the films that could expand to a wider release in time. It seems like nobody knows about it, though. See it and recommend it to your friends. 

Rating:


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