For months, I’ve been reading reviews of this film, the first “mainstream” hit by the Duplass “mumblecore” brothers, most of which raved about its quirky comedy and delightful story. Finally, it came out on DVD, so I rented it last weekend and goaded my husband into watching it with me (he’s not really much of a movie lover) by telling him everybody I knew had said Cyrus was hilarious. He was gonna love it. Funniest movie ever.
Things started out well — John C. Reilly plays a seven-years-divorced sad sack (his specialty!) named John who hasn’t had a real girlfriend since his smart, cool, and gorgeous wife (Catherine Keener, her specialty!) walked out on him.
John and his ex have remained friends, and one day she walks in on him masturbating (which makes her FREAK OUT, a reaction I found kind of odd, I confess — she’d never seen his naked dingle-dongle before?) and decides he’s been alone long enough. She orders him to come to her house that night for a party and he reluctantly agrees, then spends the entire night getting schnockered and hitting on every woman in the room.
Outside peeing in the bushes, he meets a lovely woman named Molly (Marisa Tomei, decidedly more laid-back about naked penises — I like her already). She’s charmed by his goofiness and they end up spending the night together. He pretty much declares his love for her immediately, but Molly’s not as quick to get so close. Why? Because, as John finds out a few days later, she’s got a 21 year-old son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill), still living at home.
Molly and Cyrus have an incredibly close relationship — a little weirdly close from John’s perspective (for example, Cyrus likes to hang out in the bathroom while his mom takes a shower). And it’s not long before Cyrus begins trying to sabotage his mother’s new relationship, in an attempt to keep her all to himself.
There are some truly comic moments in this film, mostly stemming from John C. Reilly’s wonderful facial expressions, but a lot of the humor had to do with the somewhat-creepy undertones of an incestuous relationship between Molly and Cyrus — something I found a little hard to laugh at with much gusto.
Even worse, though, while the raging war between John and Cyrus seemed authentic — John struggling to hold on to the first love he’s felt since his marriage, Cyrus desperate to maintain his comfortable (emotionally) status quo — the sudden resolution of that conflict at the end felt completely out of the blue to me. Rushed. Not quite right. I kept expecting one more scene — PSYCH! — but no, that was it: a sugary-sweet, totally pat kind of ending. Well, points for catching me off guard, I guess, but not for much else there, I’m afraid.
I wish this film had given a little more time to character development and not tried so hard to be funny instead. Had we really gotten to experience Cyrus’s transformation — coming to terms with his fear of growing up, realizing he’s hindering his own mother’s happiness — the ending would’ve been really moving instead of so emotionally stunted. Ten more minutes, a little more internal battling, just more oomph somehow, and this could’ve been a much stronger film.
Instead, we’re mostly just left with the uneasy chuckle that comes from seeing a photograph of a mother breastfeeding what looks like a teenage boy. Which. Er. Ha ha? Hmm. Not so much.
Comparing this film to the two other Duplass movies I’ve seen — The Puffy Chair and Baghead — I definitely see a lot of growth, both in terms of their writing and in terms of their film-making skills in general (though why this film was using shaky-cam, I have no idea — it didn’t add anything to the feel). They’re getting there (and damn, Mark Duplass himself sure is adorable — I loved him in Humpday and one of the reasons I wanted to see this film is because I’m thinking about a Boyfriend write-up on him later this year). But they still have a little way to go.
Looking forward to seeing what they do next (together or alone). And as for this one, as I said earlier, most people seemed to think it was the shit. What the hell do I know?
Genre: Comedy? I guess?
Cast: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh