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Cyrus (Jay Duplass | Mark Duplass, 2010)

 

     An unpretentious lineup of actors is assembled to hash out some Oedipal issues in the Duplass brothersí dramedy Cyrus. A modestly pitched foray into social awkwardness that centers on a sad-sack loser (John C. Reilly) whose chance at new love is thwarted by the son of his new girlfriend (Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei, respectively), the film offers a few mild laughs, but seems unsure whether it exists to satirize or psychoanalyze the situation that it sets up. Shot in the mumblecore style that has come to prominence in American indie films of the last few years, Cyrus does little to distinguish itself visually. At first, its handheld camerawork, its overreliance on close-ups, and its short zooms that correspond to the charactersí small epiphanies seem an odd fit for a plot that is predicated on emotional subterfuge. Itís no great surprise, then (although certainly a disappointment when entertainment value is considered), that the third act brings with it a series of heart-to-heart reconciliations, which only superficially address the ugly emotions that bubbled under the rest of the movie. The change of heart at the end of Cyrus is a turn that reaches for greatness, desperately trying to lend credibility to a style of comedy that almost invariably tacks its emotional resolution on, but it still feels forced.

 

     More groundwork would need to have been laid in Cyrusí early scenes for us to really begin to root for the charactersí emotional well-being. Reillyís role sees him as an outright stalker when heís not a loser, Hill plays an obsessive man-child, and Tomei is given only a sketch of a character to work with (itís never quite clear what see sees in the slovenly, homely slug that Reilley plays or why she enables her pathetic son to such a degree). Realistically, this scenario is hopeless, and begs the question of whether or not we are really vested in seeing a sweet resolution to such a damaged setup. As the audience wonders if sincerity is an adequate substitute for drama or laughs, Cyrus careens toward a misguided ending that mistakes brevity for profundity. The effect is disappointing, as it cuts short the momentum that the actors begin to generate as the plot twists itself. The end result feels both half-baked, and woefully familiar, less like an antidote to Hollywood movies of this ilk than a wolf in sheepís clothing. Too sunny, and too kind, to be classified as a black comedy, Cyrus chooses tidiness and warmth over any truly biting message or frank appraisal of its characters.

 

43 

Jeremy Heilman 

06.20.10