CYRUS (Duplass Brothers)

Fox Searchlight, the indie film arm of entertainment giant FOX, comes in handy when you need some intelligent light-hearted arthouse films in the tradition of Alexander Payne’s SIDEWAYS, or the most recent THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT by Lisa Chodolenko. But I’m not here to kiss Fox’s ass.

CYRUS benefits from a strong talented cast that includes John C. Reilly, who is a real charmer; Marisa Tomei who’s already proven her versatility from drama to comedy and vice versa; Catherine Keener who is an indie regular, mostly playing unapologetic, highly independent modern women, and; Jonah Hill, usually seen in Judd Apatow movies, but has come a long way since then playing just a comic relief, herein the titular character who is as complex and outrageous to observe.

Said cast would not have been great were it not for the film’s biggest asset— the quality of the script. The Duplass brothers wrote the script, aside from directing the film and I really believe the greatest films are the ones which put us in uncomfortable places, making us confront our own prejudices, fears, and restraints. CYRUS is such a film; it is more than just your usual romcom— it is a romcom for adults, with such level of witty and heartfelt dialogue, and a story that voluntarily brings out a lot of emotions from the viewer. Of course CYRUS is a funny film, but what’s great is it doesn’t need to employ shortcuts, or toilet humor (i.e. Will Ferrell and especially Adam Sandler, in most of their films). CYRUS manages to be funny without trying so hard to be.

John C. Reilly embraced the character of John, a divorcee who “has so much to give”, as if he knew the character like the back of his hand. It felt so real, with all his little quirks, and the romantic side, and the climactic (and hurtful) speech he fired upon Jonah Hill. I have yet to watch him in WALK HARD, which is another film wherein he is the lead actor, but I have to say that with CYRUS, John C. Reilly really is lead actor material. This has long been overdue. The guy is truly a character actor.

Tomei did better here than he did in Darren Aronofsky’s THE WRESTLER. Here, she combines her wild side (which we usually see in her previous films) and her thoughtful side, since her character Molly is tending to a 21-year old son who has a strong oedipal attachment to her.

Hill is a revelation. CYRUS is a showcase for the three main leads’ talents, and Hill flourished rivetingly. He can be sweet at one time, then obnoxious the other, then there’s that Norman Bates look in his eyes during the wedding scene you’d actually feel his character, Cyrus belongs in a Hitchcock film.

Keener is an enigma to me. I don’t know what it is that makes her irresistible. Even as a supporting role (she plays Jamie, John’s ex) she manages to shine. That voice is so distinct you’d be able to tell it is hers even with your eyes closed.

For me, the story of CYRUS is conventional— guy meets girl, girl has a baggage— a son who is not used to the idea of another man, then there’s that confrontation, to which reconciliation comes afterwards. What makes it fresh is the sincerity in telling the story, and the story pans out naturally, like we’re watching reality TV, not a movie. For that, we can thank those handheld shots. And I also admired the way music was used. It was just a soothing bed to emphasize emotions or act as transition, like what Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross did to THE SOCIAL NETWORK (I kinda bet that they would win the Oscar and they did).

I lost count how many times the word “sudden” was used in the movie, like when Frances McDormand kept saying “Yah!” in FARGO. For me, CYRUS was also very sudden; a gem of a film I never knew would pull my heartstrings so hard.

RATING: 5/5 


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