Cyrus is the classic case of a comedy that never really takes off. It presents an initially intriguing situation and characters, but winds up depending on the awkwardness of it all and never really takes the next step. It’s a shame, because the cast is excellent and the performances from John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei are very good. If only writers/directors Jay and Mark DuPlass had kicked it up a few notches.
John (Reilly) is a down and out editor whose ex-wife, Jamie (Keener) is now getting married. Though they’ve been separated for seven years, it still stings him. The two are very good friends and one night Jamie suggests John go to a party with her in an attempt to meet some new people. He reluctantly goes, and there he meets Molly (Tomei). The two initially hook up and soon begin dating. It’s not long before John meets Molly’s 21-year-old son, Cyrus (Hill), who doesn’t take the same liking to John.
The DuPlasses have done an excellent job of creating grounded, down-to-earth characters that are likeable, but their screenplay never creates enough consistent laughs to make the whole experience worthwhile. They’re depending on the situations to dictate the comedy, but the awkward encounters and dialogue become repetitive by the midway point. By making Cyrus a mysterious and misunderstood character, not to mention a borderline sociopath, I was expecting the film to go down a darker path than it does. It also would have made the story more interesting.
Another issue is the shooting style. For whatever reason, the Duplasses have employed a total overuse of the zoom lens and shaky-cam. Considering this isn’t a documentary and it’s done to the point of distraction, why this was done is beyond me. Supposedly the actors improvised many of the scenes on the spot, so maybe they’re trying to add in an element of rawness to make the viewer feel as if they are there. Beats me, but it is a legitimate distraction and a poor artistic choice.
Cyrus is more of a missed opportunity than anything. It has elements and scenes that work, not to mention some very good performances, but the story never goes the distance. This could have been a killer black comedy without a whole lot of rewriting, but the Duplasses opted for the awkward social comedy that doesn’t deliver the consistent laughs one might expect. In the end this feels far too bland for the cast involved, and a clear missed opportunity from a narrative standpoint.
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Length: 92 Minutes
Rating: R for language and some sexual material.
Theatrical Release: June 18, 2010 (NY/LA)
Directed by: Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass
Written by: Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass.
Cast: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh