July 3, 2010

Review: 'Cyrus' – Mumblecore of the Man-Child

Cyrus is the feature studio debut of Jay and Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair), the filmmaking brothers who were at the forefront of the "mumblecore" movement in independent cinema. Known for their inexpensive, DIY productions, flair for improvisation, and documentary-style filmmaking, the Duplass brothers have taken that dedicated work ethic with more money, but still a relatively low budget of $7 million, and extra resources to create a true-to-life, wickedly funny comedy about the pangs of human relationships.

Cyrus plays as a great twist on the romantic comedy. The fresh idea of having a love triangle involving a mother and her son (played by Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill) works wonderfully as John C. Reilly sells his role of the eager boyfriend, trying to please Tomei. Hill continues to show his range with a creepy, twisted performance as a socially disturbed son who is far too attached to his best friend mother. Tomei shines with a genuinely honest portrayal as a mother struggling to let her son go and foster a new romantic relationship.

The Duplass brothers' style suits the themes of the film well. With well over 80 hours of footage, much of which was improvised, Mark and Jay paired their film down to a very well-paced, tight 90 minute film that packs a lot, including the entire emotional arc of the Reilly/Tomei relationship through its development and growth.

The ending feels a little rushed with a change of heart that is not entirely developed, but the brothers give you what you need to know and do not waste any screen time with needless banter or throwaway gags.

Reilly charms as a lovably desperate, but well-meaning, lonely man, elated by the prospect of dating a beautiful yet flawed mother in Tomei. The character relationships and dynamics play wonderfully as the trio riff and play off the awkward relationships beautifully. The supporting cast is also more than capable. Catherine Keener (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) continues to do fine, interesting work playing Reilly's ex-wife who tries to help him out.

One of the best, most memorable scenes is the party sequence at the beginning where Reilly proceeds to get drunk and sing The Human League's "Don't You Want Me". The entire series of scenes is hilarious, staying true to life in its awkwardness and charm. The Duplass brothers are very good at making their very specific kind of movies, appealing to their own sensibilities, and using their unique style that allows for some great performances as they really collaborate with and trust their actors.

Cyrus is a really fun, enjoyable film that breaks the mold of romantic comedies with an original premise that comments on romantic struggles of life that reveals interesting relationship dynamics. Jonah Hill in particular shines in a deliciously villainous role that is hysterically odd, offbeat and creepy.

More | NY Times

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