Film is ever changing. There’s no doubt about that. If it’s not Avatar leading the 3D movement, it’s something else shaping how we make and view movies. Cyrus is the latest example of what some would call a “mumblecore” film, a relatively new genre that employs a low budget, no name actors and improvised scripts. Other examples include Baghead and last year’s overrated Humpday, both of which, coincidentally, the director of this film was involved in. Starring in the latter and directing the former, Mark Duplass has once again stepped behind the camera with his brother Jay Duplass and churned out another awkward, misguided, unfunny movie.
John C. Reilly plays John, a lonely, desperate man who has been divorced from his wife Jamie, played by Catherine Keener, for seven years. Despite this, they remain friends and she acts as his confidante. One night, she pressures him into heading out to a party with her where he meets a host of women, none of whom seem very interested. That is until he meets Molly, played by Marisa Tomei. He instantly falls for her, but soon finds out that she has a 21 year old son still living with her. His name is Cyrus, played by Jonah Hill, and although he acts courteous, John suspects Cyrus may not want him in their home.
The pairing of John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei is the most unbelievable hookup since Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, and I say that not only because their physical appearances are on two different plains, but because I can’t see any woman finding a shred of affection for Reilly’s character. They first bump into each other as he’s urinating in the bushes outside, stumbling over his words in a drunken stupor and instead of taking interest in her, he rushes inside when he hears his favorite song playing and makes an idiot of himself. Next thing you know, they’re in bed together post-sex. Nothing about the set-up came close to resembling any type of reality because if women were attracted to drunken men acting like morons, I’d have prospects lining up around the block.
So it’s a stretch. I suppose that’s ok. The bulk of the movie is spent with Cyrus and as long as that worked, it would be easy to look past the weak opening. But it doesn’t. The reason is that the titular character is handled so haphazardly you never truly get a feel for what he’s thinking. He clearly resents John for infiltrating his household and threatening to tear his mother away from him and he uses humiliation tactics to prove his point, but there’s an odd sexual tension bubbling underneath. Is he upset because he’s losing his mother or because he can’t, as he puts it, love her the way John can?
It’s worrisome to say the least, but his quirks don’t end there. At times, Cyrus is voyeuristic and watches John and his mother as they walk through the door and make their way to the couch about to partake in some sexual activity. At others, he seems to have homicidal tendencies, appearing behind John at night with a knife and a cold blank stare. There’s something unsettling about Cyrus, deliberate or not, that keeps this movie from leaving the ground.
But then out of nowhere it reverses tones and concludes on an upbeat, happy-go-lucky sequence where the previous tension and hatred dissolves faster than an antacid in water, which didn't fit the sometimes dark and uncomfortable hour and 20 minutes preceding it.
Cyrus simply isn’t very good narratively, but it fails from a technical standpoint as well. It's shot like an amateur home video, full of camera zooms and intentional poor framing, which worked against its intended purpose. Instead of drawing me in through what the directors hoped was a more realistic documentary-esque feel, it became a distraction and pushed me away.
That those are only the beginning of my criticisms shows how hackneyed this poor excuse for a film is. Although categorized by some as “mumblecore,” I would argue it contradicts too many of that genre’s defining features to be considered such. But you can call it what you want. Cyrus is a mess either way.
Cyrus receives 1.5/5