SXSW FILM 2010
By JP Chapman | March 15, 2010
Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Writers: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener
Day 2 of SXSW was abbreviated for me, but nonetheless brought with it the much anticipated premiere of Cyrus. Having learned my lesson from snaking around the block in the line for Kick-Ass, I made sure I made it the Paramount extra early for this one. Just to give you an idea of the type of crowds at many SxSw screenings, there was a line stretching the equivalent of two city blocks around the theatre with an hour still to go prior to Cyrus starting……and that was just the “badge holder line”. With this being the first “big budget” studio film by the Duplass brothers though (of The Puffy Chair and Baghead fame), I was anxious to see if they would be able to translate their “mumblecore” to actual movie stars, and a movie with some studio backing. I’m pleased to say that not only did the film carry over all the best aspects of the Duplass’ previous works, but also bridged a previously untouched gap, delivering a commercially appealing movie at the same time.
Cyrus stars John C. Reilly as, John, a perpetually sullen divorcee of seven years that still maintains an awkwardly close friendship with his ex-wife, Jamie (Catherine Keener). John’s been in a tail spin since their divorce, and doesn’t feel any better about himself after learning that Jamie has just gotten engaged. Encouraging him to get out and meet someone new, Jamie forces John out to a party where he proceeds to get drunk and announce to every woman he tries to speak to that he’s a desperate, lonely loser…
For some reason that John can’t quite understand, one woman by the name of Molly (Marisa Tomei) finds his acts of desperation charming, and ends up going home with him for the night. They connect for dinner and another night together the following day, but John’s insecurities start to boil up as Molly continually opts to leave in the middle of the night rather than stay over. In a stalker-like move, he follows her home that night, only to fall asleep in his car outside her house. While snooping around the house trying to figure out what’s wrong with Molly, he comes across a young man by the name of Cyrus (Jonah Hill), whom he finds out is Molly’s 21 yr. old son.
Molly’s a little put off by John’s presence when she comes home to discover him hanging with Cyrus, but brushes it off and invites him to stay for dinner. Conversely, John also gets a little taken aback by Cyrus’s oddly frank conversation style, as well as the weirdly close relationship he shares with Molly. In the days and weeks that follow, Molly and John begin to grow closer and closer, yet small things begin to take place that make him wonder about Cyrus’s feelings about their relationship. Ultimately, Cyrus moves out, and John moves in. In the course of moving in, some of John’s suspicions about Cyrus are proven out, as he learns that Cyrus is not comfortable sharing his mother, or altering their relationship. A war of wills between the two follows as they both fight for what they want.
If you’ve seen The Puffy Chair or Baghead, you know what to expect from a Duplass brothers film. Unlike many other directors today, they manage to insert an enormous amount of realism and humanity in both their stories and humor. Led by an awesome sense of silence and comedic timing, they’re able to make you feel like what you’re watching isn’t just a movie, but that these could be conversations that you’ve had in your life with actual human beings. In the case of Cyrus, they manage to take this style and collide it with the off-kilter humor of Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly. The result is awesome. All the best elements of each respective party combine to make something truly special. Marisa Tomei and Catherine Keener are the icing on the cake, as they deliver solid performances, consistent with their usual dependability.
Usually, I feel like a particular actor or director steals the show in a movie, but in the case of Cyrus, it was an unexpectedly even team effort- with each talent contributing to a great whole. With that being said, the one thing that I was most pleased of in Cyrus was the performance of John C. Reilly. Now, I’m a big fan of Reilly’s-from his performances in Magnolia and Gangs of New York, to his portrayals of Cal in Talladega Nights and the noble Dr. Steve Brule. However; I’ve definitely felt that his strong points lay in dramatic performances. He’s a hilarious guy, but some of his comedic choices in recent years haven’t been the most flattering. Going into Cyrus, I was concerned that this had the potential to be another of those “slapstick” performances. Pleasantly, it turned out to be the opposite. Reilly achieves an amazing depth of character, all the while puling off what may be his best comedic performance to date. A true return to form for him. Contributing to his performance, Jonah Hill proves that he’s not a one-trick pony, and delivers a similar performance of both depth and hilarity. I’m anxious to see where Hill’s career leads moving forward.
The Duplass brothers have been fairly consistent deliverers thus far in the career. In the case of Cyrus, things are stepped up to an entirely new level for them though. If this is what happens when they get a little studio money behind them, I can’t wait to see what lies in the future for them. Although it’s early in the year, Cyrus feels destined to be one of the comedies to beat for 2010, and sets a new high mark in the Duplass brothers’ careers.