Thursday , June 20 2024
Cyrus plays Oedipus for laughs

DVD Review: Cyrus

Cyrus, perhaps the creepiest love triangle you’re likely to have seen on the big screen, is now available on DVD. You begin with John C. Reilly as John a disturbed divorcee having trouble coping with life on his own. At a party his ex-wife and her husband to be force him to attend he meets a remarkably good looking woman, Molly (Marisa Tomei), who inexplicably takes a liking to him. “Are you flirting with me?” an amazed Reilly asks her when she runs across him urinating in the bushes, and unbelievably she is. Next thing you know they’re in bed together and romance blossoms. When it turns out that the lovely Molly has a twenty one year old son, the eponymous Cyrus played by Jonah Hill, the plot thickens.

At first it seems that Cyrus and Molly are typically normal and John is kind of weird. But that changes quickly and it begins to appear that Cyrus and Molly have a somewhat strange relationship for a mother and son. In fact very strange when Cyrus walks nonchalantly into the bathroom while his mother is taking a shower, much to the amazement of John who has been invited to sleep over. Oedipus has nothing on Cyrus. It doesn’t take long for Cyrus to begin a surreptitious campaign to sabotage the budding romance, nor does it take long for John to recognize what Cyrus is doing. Roles have been reversed, John may be a little frenetic, but he sure seems the normal one in this triangle. What follows is the battle for sweet Molly’s affections.

The idea that in this kind of incestuous relationship there is the stuff of comedy would seem farfetched at best, yet that is the exactly what this film aims for, and farfetched or not, it succeeds. This is a funny movie. Part of the fun comes from the manifest awkwardness of the situation, and the honesty of the actors portraying that awkwardness. Reilly, especially, is masterful at conveying the embarrassment of the situation. But all three of the principals play within the moment. There is no wink and nod acting here. They cringe and you cringe along with them. This realistic style of acting along with the realistic settings and low budget tech, usually called mumblecore, is often associated with the Duplass brothers, the film’s writer/director team. It is a style that Reilly, Tomei and even Hill, who has not been known previously for his subtlety, buy into completely.

Even in set pieces where it would be easy to go over the top, there is an honesty and restraint in the performance. John does a kind of drunken dance and sing-a-long at the party where he and Molly first meet and the viewer can only be embarrassed for him until Molly joins in what seems to be little more than an act of kindness, but an act that turns weird into endearing. Cyrus goads John into a fight during the reception at his ex-wife’s wedding, and Molly’s reaction is exactly what you would expect from any mother. John tries to explain, but when she refuses to listen, he leaves in frustration. These are honest reactions played sincerely.

The only extras on the DVD other than the trailer are two deleted scenes. Each can be played with or without an introduction by the Duplass brothers. The first is a puppet show that John was supposed to have created to make Molly feel better after Cyrus has decided to move out of the house. Reilly had improvised a scene where he comforts the tearful Tomei by telling her that things won’t get better and gets her to laugh through her tears, which they rightly felt was less contrived. The other scene had Cyrus experiencing a panic attack at a party and going to an emergency room for treatment. This scene, they felt, made Cyrus too sympathetic to the audience.

Cyrus is a film that may not be to everyone’s taste, but what it does, it does very well. It is a quirky film for quirky tastes

About Jack Goodstein

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