What people find to be funny is always something of interest to me. Some people love the slapstick comedy of the Three Stooges. Others like raunchy comedy like The Hangover or The 40 Year Old Virgin. And still others enjoy laughing at real life. Despite it being released in the middle of summer movie season, if you come into Cyrus expecting either of the first two types of comedy you will be sorely disappointed because the latest film from the eccentric Duplass Brothers (Baghead) is cemented firmly in reality.
Cyrus is the story of John (John C. Reilly) and Molly (Marisa Tomei), two middle aged adults looking for love with one thing trying to pull them apart. That thing of course is Molly’s son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill). Cyrus is a 22 year old who has never had to share his mother with anyone and he surely is not about to let the depressed and vulnerable John steal away his mother without a fight.
The advertisements for the film have tried to portray Cyrus as a comedy with some heart but I think portraying in that light is something of a disservice to the film. The actions taken by the three leads in the film left an unsettling feeling in my gut. The situations that Cyrus puts John and Molly feel so authentic that the film actually can left me feeling emotionally drained while watching it. It is not so much a comedy looking to draw laughs as it is a character study of how people react when thrust into such an unnerving situation.
The biggest compliment I can give Cyrus is that it always feels authentic. While I myself have never been in a situation quite like what happens in the film, I never felt that any of it was made up or exaggerated. The success of portraying the scenes authentically is do to the fine performances by the three main leads. Reilly and Hill, two actors which have been very hit and miss over the last couple years, also really deliver the goods.
Reilly in particular showed me something in Cyrus that I didn’t think he was capable of. The man, for all his goofiness, delivers a fantastic, heartwarming and believable performance in the leading role. But as good as Reilly is, the heart and soul of Cyrus is Tomei. For the last few years Marisa Tomei has really selected some heavy hitting roles and knocked them out of the park and she does so again here. She makes you believe that she is being torn in two as she has to choose between to unenviable choices and as she is pulled between the two and played as a pawn in the ongoing psychological war between John and Cyrus, one can’t help but feel for her.
For much of Cyrus I felt uncomfortable watching the events unfold. It felt like I was taking an unauthorized view in on these people and it was quite emotionally draining to do so. It is hard for me to recommend Cyrus as a piece of entertainment because it is something more than that. It is something out of the ordinary and honestly I’m not even sure I liked it but I was moved by it and that is something I can’t say about most films.
4 out of 5.