Monday, March 28, 2011

A Deeper Comedy Than Most, Cyrus Is Wonderfully Awkward Humor!

The Good: Very funny, Good character development, Decent acting, Fine plot.
The Bad: Lags in some parts, Repetitive humor.
The Basics: In a very rare (for me!) short review, I find Cyrus to be a short comedy that is funny, dark and surprisingly deep for the summer!

Given how much Step Brothers (reviewed here!) was both lauded and oversold to me by my wife (well, before she was my wife. . .), I was a bit more cautious about Cyrus going into the film than I probably ought to have been. Cyrus relates to Step Brothers more than just through the sharing of star John C. Reilly. Both movies deal with the awkwardness of remarriage. This time, instead of Reilly playing the cause of problems in a remarriage, he plays a much more plausible protagonist who is hated by the grown son of the woman he falls in love with.

Cyrus returns John C. Reilly to his dramatic cinematic roots, though the film is very much a comedy. The humor is frequently awkward and there is a darker tone to much of the interactions between John and Cyrus. But instead of being an inane comedy, like Step Brothers, Cyrus opts for smart with a film that has surprising psychological depth and is both funny and disturbing in ways that work out well for the audience.

John has been divorced from Jamie for seven years, but he still has regular communication with her. While she dates and is now engaged with Tim, John has been slow to recover from the divorce. So, Jamie takes John to a party to try to get him to socialize and he begins to fall down. But he is rescued by utter embarrassment among Jamie's friends by Molly, who is bubbling with life. Despite their inherent differences, Molly and John hit it off and they begin seeing one another. But when Molly leaves John, she returns home to Cyrus, her adult son who screams in the night and demands a lot of her attention.

As John tries to get closer with Molly, Cyrus feels threatened by his mother's new relationship and he starts threatening John, overtly and subtly. While John tries to be honest with Molly about how manipulative Cyrus is, Molly reveals her blind spot for her son and Cyrus and John are left to figure out the relationships on their own.

Cyrus is filled with awkward humor and Jonah Hill plays the title character of the film with a surprising undertone of menace. As John and Molly get frisky in the living room, Cyrus threatens John from down the hallway and while there is humor to the unexpected way this happens, it also is genuinely unsettling. More than any other movie I've seen Hill in, in Cyrus he has real range and he plays the full breadth of that ability well. So, for example, while he is cold and menacing in scenes opposite John C. Reilly, he is surprisingly affectionate and emotionally open in many of his scenes opposite Marisa Tomei, who plays his mother, Molly. There is an unhealthy connection at points between Molly and Cyrus and Hill manages to keep Cyrus as a realistic, well-conceived character throughout. In other words, the viewer never feels like Hill is playing anyone other than this very distinctive and disturbing character.

Molly is a touch more monolithic by comparison. While viewers are likely to feel thrilled for John to have found some measure of happiness, they are less likely to be interested in the John and Molly relationship because there is nothing especially distinctive about the mother (other than the fact that she lets Cyrus get disgustingly close to her at times).

But as much as Jonah Hill astounds as Cyrus, it is hard not to be impressed by John C. Reilly. Reilly returns to playing the good guy who we want to see catch a break and he makes John feel unlike any of his other characters. Still, he masters in the stiff one moment, broken at another moment until Reilly and Tomei are on screen together. After that, viewers are treated to Reilly emoting a delicious sense of complete delight and his character quickly becomes lovable. Moreover, just as we want to see Cyrus grow up and back off from Molly, Reilly helps make John a character we want to see stop struggling and move on.

And that was the deeper thing that Cyrus had that most other movies last summer did not. Amid all of the special effects flicks and dumb comedies, Cyrus had characters that are easy to care about and who have real motivations that are evident throughout. Sadly, it was forgotten or overlooked during award season just because of when it was released.

For other films featuring John C. Reilly, please check out my reviews of:
Cedar Rapids


For other film reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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