Leave it to the true “all-stars” of this film movement (the Duplass Bros.) to make, in my opinion, the best mumblecore-related movie ever. This is what happens when you get ACTUAL actors to star in your film instead of your buddies, which is something these mumblecore directors cant seem to get past. Just because your friend who works at American apparel is cute, or your buddy who lives off of the L train line is kind of funny, doesn’t mean they can hold down an entire movie. Aside from co-stars; John C Reilly and Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener is probably one of the best American actresses working today. And i know its become pretty cliche and typical to voice your hatred for Judd Apatow related-“anything”, but i even found Jonah Hill pretty damn funny in this too. And most importantly, when you cast actual actors, your dialogue wont consists of every other word being “like” or the phrase “you know?” coming after every other sentence. I mean, even though the basic plot of ‘Cyrus’ has been done before (a son or stepson trying to ruin his single mom’s love life so he can have her all to himself), it was still a solid film overall.
What makes this mumblecore movie stand out over all the other films is that its the first (or at least the first of what I’ve seen) to deal with characters outside of the typical age-range that these films usually focus on. The main characters are in their 40’s, divorced and one is a single parent. No mumblecore-related film that I’ve seen has yet to focus on any of that along with parenting or the type of dysfunctional relationship between Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei’s characters.
In ‘Cyrus’ John C Reilly plays a lonely guy, who hasn’t moved on or had a real relationship since his divorce. At the advice of his ex-wife, he tries his best to get back out there and meet someone. Eventually he does (Marisa Tomei), and they both seem to hit it off real well until Tomei’s son (played by Jonah Hill) comes in to the picture. She has no idea that her son isn’t the perfect angel that she thinks he is. Hill sees Reilly as a threat, and tries his best to sabotage his mom’s relationship so he can have her all to himself. Unfortunately, no one recognizes what Hill is really like except for Reilly. So the 2 of them have to put up a front when they’re around Tomei like they’re really getting along, but when she’s not around, they’re at each others throats, essentially competing to win her over
The mother/son relationship in ‘Cyrus’ is very interesting, odd and…unique. Even though the son is in his 20’s, he still needs his mom to pick the vegetables out of his food, sleep in the same bed as him when he has “panic attacks” (which may or may not even be real panic attacks) and they hang out more than a 20-something year old son should hang out with his mother. In fact, he doesn’t seem to have any friends (or even a girlfriend for that matter) outside of his mother. There’s nothing incestuous between the 2, but its definitely not a normal relationship.
John C Reilly’s performance is a nice transition in to his next and more dramatic role (‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’). I love “Dr. Steve Brule” just as much as anyone else, and Reilly is a funny guy, but I’m starting to get worried that there’s a new generation of kids who are going to only identify him as a comedic actor, unaware of his earlier work like; ‘State of Grace’ or ‘The Thin Red Line’. It seems like ever since he started playing the somewhat dopey/comedic supporting roles in the more serious films PT Anderson (‘Sydney’, ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘Magnolia’), Reilly started to get get typecast after that. His performance in ‘Cyrus’ is just as funny (the opening scene when Catherine Keener catches him masturbating or the scene when Reilly quietly threatens to knock Jonah Hill out) as it is sad (the scene in the beginning of the film when he’s at the party and confesses some pretty heavy/sad stuff about his life to a complete stranger). I don’t know if any actor couldve pulled off the performance the same way he did.
The Duplass brothers managed to maintain their John Cassavetes-influenced/natural looking cinematography (found in their previous films) and this may sound corny, but ‘Cyrus’ does have a some genuine and touching moments. Yes, as the story unfolds it does get predictable and sure you can see the ending coming from a mile away, but i still enjoyed it very much.