Cyrus perfectly combines the hip and the non-hip aspects of cinema in one small but important movie. Here is a film starring Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly and yet the latter two actors are likely associated with the ditzy characters they play in movies like Stepbrothers or Get Him To The Greek. The thing is that Cyrus concerns itself with portraying real people so the characters Hill and Reilly play are more like the kind of people who go see movies like Stepbrothers or Get Him To The Greek.
Cyrus throws the average viewer a loop because it starts out in a typical studio comedy mode with a lengthy party scene that establishes Reilly as a loner, and possibly a loser, whose ex (Catherine Keener) has just informed him of her plans to re-marry. Reilly gets promptly drunk and starts making a fool of himself. He commandeers the stereo and belts out the vocals to “Don’t You Want Me Baby” and is only saved when hottie single mom Tomei comes to his rescue and turns his wasted warbling into a must-participate party game.
Things constantly look on the upswing for Reilly since not only is Tomei’s Molly attractive but actually available and willing to sleep with him. Cyrus then moves into art house mode when Reilly meets Molly’s son Cyrus (Hill) and the rest of the film turns into a psychological character study, primarily of the two males and the various ways they keep their struggle for alpha dominancy hidden from Molly.
Cyrus, written and directed by Mark and Jay Duplass, basically goes into areas that a lesser movie would avoid. Yes there are a few laughs but the grins are based on real situations and sometimes painfully so. You can’t help but wonder if something incredible or even violent is going to happen between the two guys. But Cyrus isn’t a film that wants to hold your hand while you watch or offer any easy solutions. As helmed by the brothers the images are so tightly framed around the actors faces that you gasp when you actually see them in any sort of long shot, like gathered around a lake in a park, or driving in a car on the freeway. Cyrus has a tendency to rely on its shaky cam and quick zoom movements of the lens to distinguish itself stylistically. But the brothers might have used these noticeable techniques less, as with all art a little goes a long way.
Mark Duplass might be more familiar having appeared as an actor in films like Humpday and Greenberg. In fact like Greenberg, Cyrus wants to make a point of observing what makes the everyday misanthrope tick. Only the people on display in Cyrus are not rich, and maybe not even upwardly mobile. They’re just regular middle class types who live in regular dwellings and lead normal lives.
There’s not so much of an overall arc as a feeling that the story, when we see it end, has only begun. Hill in particular has a way of expressing his emotions in a minimal way. At first Hill’s 1000-yard stare looks like an easy laugh, but then you realize it’s really Cyrus exposing himself naked before a world that hasn’t even begun to notice.
– Michael Bergeron