CYRUS movie review

by Erin Thursby
For the generation used to the jerky, immediate camera style found on The Office and reality TV, the camera work of Cyrus might be quirky rather than unsettling. Even knowing what the filmmakers were aiming for, I found that the quick zooms, too many close-ups and delayed focusing didn’t aid in telling the story, but rather distracted from it.
The plot-line is something that would work well as an Adam Sandler movie. But instead of going over the top, it’s quietly funny. There’s an absurd reality to the film. The premise is that John (John C. Reilly), a socially awkward divorcee, is dragged to a party by his ex-wife (Catherine Keener), who’s trying to cheer him up after she gives him the news that she’s remarrying. There, he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei) who is perfect for him. The one wrinkle: she has a grown son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill) that still lives with her.
Tomei’s ultra-tolerant character does stretch reality. What woman finds peeing in the bushes and being stalked after only two dates charming? Why, the mother of a dangerously co-dependent 21-year old son. I guess it makes sense that she doesn’t mind the stalking.
Most of what Cyrus does to undermine John and Molly’s relationship is mainly subtle, mundane and gloriously petty. While I’m glad it was realistic and it didn’t take things too far, the preview promises much zanier stuff, and an escalating war of attrition. Alas, most of these scenes are culled for the previews. It’s a better movie if you know nothing about it and haven’t seen the previews. It’s also a better movie if you don’t expect the hilarity of a Judd Apatow or Will Ferrell type comedy. This is a conventional film prettily disguised as an indie flick. It’s “accidentally on purpose” weird, it features awkward pauses and laughs are found in uncomfortable spaces. But the humor feels genuine and it’s grounded in the characters rather than one-liners.
It started out as funny, but things were slow to develop. Hill’s performance as Cyrus is creepy enough that it seemed possible that the plot could take a slight left turn into psychological thriller territory. But it never does.
John goes from being funny and pathetic to being funny and heartwarming because of his interaction with Molly. It’s not hard to like him and empathize with him.
Strangely, I found parallels between John and his ex-wife and Cyrus and his mother. John and Cyrus aren’t really that different. It was those similarities that kept me interested and kept it from being trite. I was particularly disquieted during what felt like a “spontaneous” double date with Molly and Cyrus as one couple and John and his soon-to-be-married -someone-else ex-wife. The women both seem to enjoy being needed, though the ex-wife actually has the good grace to be annoyed.
While I found the ending to be a little too pat and conventional, it was an enjoyable movie. Certainly not one that will change the world, or one that you’ll still be talking about in a year, but it was a good way to while away a few hours. Without the brilliant casting, this well could have been a bad movie. But Tomei, Reilly and Hill make the film more than it would be, filling out the sparse characters with believability and humor.