' ' Cinema Romantico: Cyrus

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


The Duplass Brothers (Jay and Mark) are generally considered part of that filmmaking genre whose name its members take issue with and which I will therefore tactfully refrain from typing out loud. Let's say instead that these films are typically low budget and filmed digitally and hand-held and are noted for their improvised scripts and non professional actors. "Cyrus" almost follows this formula entirely. It is low budget - filmed primarily in a couple indoor sets - and filmed digitally and hand-held - often it seems as if the directors have left on the auto focus, shots re-framing in the middle of themselves - and the dialogue feels rather improvised. Ah, but never has anyone in this shall-remain-nameless genre ever worked with such formidable actors and not only are wily veterans John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei Award Worthy Good but Jonah Hill, whose previous acting style of talking incessantly and profanely never much appealed to me, does a complete, impressive 180.

Reilly is John, divorced for seven years, though still friendly with his ex wife (Catherine Keener), and uber lonely. His ex suggests he attend a party with she and her fiancé, an idea at which John initially bristles, though he turns up anyway, terribly shy, painfully awkward, fumbling at all attempts to start a conversation before Meeting Cute with Tomei's Molly. Rather then issue spoilers I will simply unleash hyperbole and say this opening 10 minutes is likely the best I have seen this year.

They see each other again, though Molly is far too good to be true, and so she is, apparently harboring a secret which turns John into a slight stalker as he follows her to her house which leads to a Not-So-Cute-Meeting with Cyrus (Hill) himself, Molly's 21 year old man child of a son who may be a burgeoning electronica musician but also still lives at home.

Initially Cyrus appears friendly, if also a tad creepy, conveyed convincingly by Hill's facial expressions, which appear empty and strange but we will eventually determine are full of purposeful evil, and John can sense - partly on his own, partly from various goings-on - that something is off. It probably is. You deserve to discover this story for yourself if you so desire.

If the dialogue often feels improvised - and, man, is it fun to listen to Reilly and Tomei talk like real people, like people searching for the words as they go - the script, while not scrupulously plotted, is more plotted than the films usually of this genre, the stakes getting higher and weirder. Much, much weirder. And the performances heighten everything. Reilly as a lovable lug who can't help but try too hard and Tomei as a severely kind and enabling mother and Hill as a calculating and cruel. This is a makeshift family of extreme dysfunction that feels real because this trio is the precise sort that would be drawn to one another. (Consider the way John shows up uninvited and Molly doesn't seem that freaked out.) The film may often be uncomfortable but it also has a warmth. And the tiniest ray of hope.

No matter how old we get, we all still have a little bit of growing up to do.

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