The new off-beat romantic comedy Cyrus has been tearing up the theaters in limited release. Last weekend was its widest expansion yet. Still only playing in 200 theaters it has already grossed over 3.4 million dollars. There have been few ads and most people seem not to have heard of the film. I caught it with a friend on Sunday and I thought I’d share my thoughts.
John C. Reilly stars as John, an easy name to remember for him, a depressed divorcee who still spends an inordinate amount of time with his ex-wife (played by an aging Catherine Keener) despite her being about to remarry. When she drags him to a party he meets Molly (the still hot Marisa Tomei) and they hit it off immediately. There’s a typical “meet cute” which leads to Tomei’s memorable opening line “Nice penis.” But when she refuses to let him see anything of her life he, in a somewhat creepy moment, stalks her to her home. There he meets Cyrus (Jonah Hill), her 22-year old socially maladjusted aspiring musician son. Everything seems fine at first, but John comes to realize Cyrus is waging a quiet war to drive him out of his mother’s life.
The biggest thing that hit me about this film is that it was not what I expected at all. The ads had focused on some of the most obvious and extreme parts of John and Cyrus’s feud. So I was expecting an over-the-top slapstick comedy about their escalating war. What I got was a much more subdued and subtle film about psychological warfare and the different types of love. Cyrus is a tough character to sympathize with as he goes through his plots but John isn’t perfect either. His relationship with his ex-wife is just as co-dependant as Cyrus and his mother’s. And his eventual anger and defeatism makes it hard to know if everything is going to work out in the end.
Reilly is playing in his comfort zone so he delivers a fine performance. Johan Hill as Cyrus shows he can play a more subdued version of most of the zany characters he usually plays. Marissa Tomei and Catherine Keener don’t have as much to work with since the focus is so heavily on John vs. Cyrus, but they both turn in believable performances. Worthy of singling out for praise, however, is Matt Walsh as Keener’s fiancé. While he has virtually no lines he is able to convey with a simple look more than many people can convey in two minutes of dialogue. The Duplass brothers handle the direction in a low-key, unflashy manner than at times seems like you’re watching these people’s home movies. It’s not spectacular, but it’s what the material requires.
Overall, Cyrus is an entertaining film that will make you squirm with awkwardness more than once during its 92 minute run-time. You should be satisfied with the ending, even if it is a tad abrupt. Cyrus may be too off-beat to ever break out as a mainstream hit and would work just as well on video. But if you get a chance to see it someday it’s definitely worth the time.