2010-10-15 11:04

What it's about:

John (played by John C. Reilly), a lonely and divorced middle-aged man finds love in a beautiful single mother Molly (Marisa Tomei) but his presence in her life is met with hostility by her clingy, overprotective 22-year-old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill). As a darkly comic, and escalating, battle of wills break out between the two men, will John be able to salvage what may well be his greatest chance at happiness?    

What we thought:

Cyrus is an odd film. It has a basic premise that could have lent itself equally well to a number of genres, be it screwball/quirky/dark comedy, hard-hitting drama or even a twisted, domestic thriller and lands up being a strange mix of them all. It is also a film that somehow feels fresh, edgy and affecting, while at the same time being familiar, predictable and ultimately fairly forgettable. It also fits in some weird no-man's land that is neither mainstream nor indie, and yet both at once somehow. In a way, it's a film that is best summed up by its main cast.

On the one end of the spectrum, we have Jonah Hill, a young actor who is best known for his work in very mainstream comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Superbad, and on the other Catherine Keener, whose work in quirky independent projects like Synecdoche, New York and Being John Malkovich far overshadows her occasional forays into more mainstream fare. Between these two poles, we have John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei, two actors who seem as at home in frothy, mainstream cinema as they do in the rougher edges of indie and art films.

Put all of them together and you are left with a film that is eccentrically schizophrenic in tone and is a viewing experience that is, by turns, enjoyable and uncomfortable in equal measure. Tomei continues her resurgence in recent years as a truly impressive actress, Keener is as reliably great as ever, Reilly is pitch-perfect but Hill is the real revelation with a brilliantly creepy performance that is far outside his comfort zone of the fast talking smart-ass.

The scene is perfectly set – as are the shifting and clashing tones of the film – by the opening scene. A shaky camera follows Catherine Keener in a single tracking shot into the cluttered and messy house of her ex-husband before she walks in on him, shall we say, getting in touch with himself, The verite-style camera work and dull green/beige tone of the sequence feels very much like a generic indie film before giving way (though not entirely) to a scene that could easily have come from an American Pie movie. In fact, it's been a while since I've seen it, but I think that actually was, with only the slightest change in ex-wife to embarrassing father, the opening scene to American Pie. With all this happening, you also get a strong sense of John's lonely desperation and the still-uneasy relationship he shares with an ex who doesn't display any of the problems he has with letting go and moving on with his life.

That is the movie in a nutshell. You'll be squirming in your seat as the mostly subliminal sense of unease tightens its grasp on you, while at the same time laughing at the farcical screwball bits of comedy. You'll find yourself getting more and more engaged with the burgeoning relationship between John and Molly, while at the same time feeling decidedly repulsed by Cyrus' uncomfortably close relationship with his mother.

And when you walk out of the cinema, the entire experience drifts away like a barely remembered dream. It's no masterpiece but, for at least the time you spend with it in, Cryus will definitely be one of the weirder two hours you'll spend in a cinema this year. And for that alone it should be commended.

Seriously, don't f**k his mom.

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