Everyone needs a best friend, but not everyone can find that one person who’d stick with you through thick and thin. One such person is Cyrus, who is the main focus of Jay and Mark Duplass’ latest cinematic endeavor, “Cyrus.” The movie stars Jonah Hill as the eponymous character, who finds affection and consult from his one and only friend, Molly — who is also his mother (Marisa Tomei lends her talents for the role).
Things become complicated for Cyrus and Molly when John (John C. Reilly) enters the picture. After hearing the news that his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener) is getting remarried, the recent divorcee attends a party, which Jamie hosts, and following a long-winded rant about his lack of appeal, he meets Molly, who thought of his speech as being “honest,” and who turns out to be love of his life.
However, Molly keeps Cyrus a secret from John and when he finds out about her adult son, a feud occurs between her new-found lover and her long-time friend.
It seems as if “Cyrus” never had the opportunity to fail. It’s directed by two talented directors with films such as “Baghead” and “The Puffy Chair,” which were both low-key yet acclaimed films in their own right. This talent is present in the film’s direction, which combines the mainstream production values of major studio releases and the hushed yet unfaltering ideals of the indie scene. But the production values are evident at first glance, namely at the cast. Reilly, Tomei and Hill are all sought-after actors, and though Reilly and Hill have made their names in raunchy Appatow-esque comedies, they both pack an organic and heart-felt dramatic punch in this dark comedy, which though it doesn’t have the side-splitting laughs of such raunch-fests, does have its clever moments. Tomei is an immaculate actress and her work on “Cyrus” tops even perhaps her performance in “The Wrestler,” which I found exuberant.
But it became evident to me during my screening of “Cyrus” that Jonah Hill’s character is behind some undeserved hate. A good portion of the audience muttered under their breaths “Get him a girl” or “Leave your mother alone.” It seems that the reasoning behind Cyrus’ actions isn’t as simple as I believe it to be (or my screening was full of idiots). But I’ll take the time to put those comments to rest. First of all, Cyrus’ father abandoned him and Molly. Speaking from a psychological standpoint, this would indeed create an abundance of trust issues, especially towards John, who shines as a potential father figure that Cyrus — despite not showing it — desperately craves. On top of that, Cyrus exhibits severe social problems. It’s quite understandable that he’d find a friendship with his mother – who shared the same struggles following his father’s departure. Hell, I can relate. But maybe the character isn’t quite as relatable as he is for me and thus it makes it much harder to interpret his motives for the standard film junkie – but let me set the record straight: Cyrus is not the antagonist in the film, and the real enemy is mistrust and inner pain.
But as solid as Tomei, Reilly, and Hill are, there seems to be one performance that virtually steals the show and this is Catherine Keener’s work as Jamie. Though in such films it is customary for the audience to hate the ex-wife, Jamie is different. Yes, it’s evident from the opening sequence that John is severely hurt by the loss, but it’s also clear that Jamie still cares for him a great deal. However, their relationship simply did not work. Jamie supports John 100 percent throughout his complex relationship with Molly and serves as his best friend. Keener manages to capture the essence of safety and guidance nicely, which not only makes her worth mentioning but also allows me to forget her fatal misstep in “Please Give,” which momentarily tarnished her name for me.
But as organic as this all feels alone, it’s the low-notch camera-work that adds the final layer of realism. None of the scenes feel too edited or too saturated and this reminds the audience that these characters are representative of real people with real and unique problems and not some cookie-cutter models.
It’s rare (especially in this stinker of a movie year) that a film spark so much conversation while feeling real — but “Cyrus” is such a film. Jay and Mark Duplass should be commended for not only raising the philosophical question of “when should there be boundaries in a friendship?” but also for making the film not only an exercise for the mind but also for the heart.
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