If it's crap ... We'll tell you
****This review contains spoilers****
I missed seeing this movie during its theater run, but its trailers made it look interesting to me. After seeing this film, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I think this is something a good friend of mine might refer to as an “Oh” movie. Meaning; you see it, you enjoy it, and you forget about. And then several months later, the title might pop up during a conversation, prompting you to say, “Oh, I saw that. It wasn't bad.” Or something around those lines. I doubt if I'll remember this one that far down the road, so I'll discuss it while it's still fresh in my mind. Here we go...
Throughout the course of “Cyrus,” I could immediately see two distinct influences on the film. One of them is Stanley Kubrick's “Lolita.” That may seem strange to you, but I promise I'll elaborate. The other influence I could see is from Wes Anderson's “Rushmore.” I know what you're asking; how did I pull those two polar opposites out of thin air? Well, let's see. The three main characters are John (John C. Reilly), Molly (Marisa Tomei) and Cyrus (Jonah Hill). They end up in a very weird, almost love triangle.
To explain; John has been in the dumps since his wife (Catherine Keener) divorced him seven years ago, but they have remained amicable. She drags him to a party to meet other women, and pick himself up. There he meets Molly, and they hit it off. I really liked how they interacted. She was actually very sweet, and makes John feel better about himself when he actually does act like himself at the party, versus the status quo of acting completely different to try and impress someone. The two have sex a couple times before he becomes suspicious when she always has to go home, prompting him to stalk her to her house where he meets her son, Cyrus. He's twenty-one-year-old musician who lives at home. Initially he takes kindly to his mom's new friend, yet he makes a slew of inappropriate and unnerving questions at dinner, but John is a sport, and treats him like an adult.
An interesting hint of things to come is when John is about to stay the night at her house for the first time when several things happen: First, when Molly is in the shower, John sees a picture of Molly breast feeding Cyrus, who appears to be around the age of six or seven. Second, while Molly is still showering, Cyrus goes into the same bathroom, and the two end up singing together. And third, when John goes to close the bedroom door so they can have sex, she informs him that they leave the doors open in their house.
Throughout the rest of the film, we begin to see Cyrus in a different light: a scheming, manipulative momma's boy. He plots to drive the two apart, and when that doesn't work, he uses psychological tactics on his mom to gain her pity. He moves out, causing Molly to feel at fault, with John being the shoulder to cry on. John and Molly move in, and everything seems to be going fine until Cyrus barges back in, and pleas to move back in. Molly, of course lets him come back, and things heat up between him and John, culminating in the two ruining John's ex-wife's marriage.
Eventually, Molly begins to see Cyrus for what he is, and she tells him he can't be like that anymore. He sees that Molly really liked John, and he tries to heal the wounds by going over to John's place, and apologizing for his actions, and lures him back to Molly's house under the guise of a ride home. Molly sees John, and we would assume the two reconcile after the screen cuts to black.
Now how did I peg those two specific films as direct influences? First off, it seems almost unnerving when all three are together in the house. It makes you feel uncomfortable, like you shouldn't be seeing this, much like the scenes in the middle of “Lolita.” Cyrus is manipulative and scheming when it comes to his jealousy of John and Molly's relationship, much like the character of Max Fisher in “Rushmore,” although not as charismatic or cool.
It's a decent enough film overall. I really liked John C. Reilly's character here. It took me back to the characters I enjoyed seeing him play; like John and Jim Kurring in Paul Thomas Anderson's films “Hard Eight” and “Magnolia” respectively. I really think he can be one of the best leads for a rom-com if it's written right. Hell, I think if Adam Sandler hadn't played the lead in “Punch Drunk Love,” Reilly would have been a great choice; however, Anderson may have seen it as he would've been playing the same character as the one in “Magnolia.” He seems like a likable guy here, and he's a trooper. He really is. Any other guy would've broken up with Molly the second Cyrus came into the picture, but maybe that's just me.
Tomei plays a good role, too. Not a great one like she had in “The Wrestler,” or “Before The Devil Knows You're Dead.” It was simple; a mother too blinded by the the affection for her son to see what he's really up to. With regard to Jonah Hill, I think this may his best roll I've seen him in. It gave him some expansion as an actor. He sort of had a Norman Bates kind of feel, in that; you knew he was strange, but you were to scared to find out the extent. Most people would praise the idea of Cyrus' character if the suitor of his mother was trying to get closer to her for the wrong reasons, like say, sex or money. But John was a nice guy who genuinely liked her, and that's why the character of Cyrus might be seen as unnerving to some.
Critical Analysis: The script felt refreshingly original to me. It could've been done as a straight-forward rom-com with a momma's boy character as an afterthought with worse results, but I feel that by making a potential afterthought the main focus, that makes it all that more interesting. I really dug some of the edited scenes in here. They were conversations for the most part, but they reminded me of the sex scene from Soderbergh's “Out of Sight,” which to me felt masterful. It was a really good technique that they didn't overuse. They used it like three times altogether, and they spaced them apart enough so that you were anticipating when they would cut to another one. As for the camera work; I didn't really like it at all. It was almost off-putting in a way. Way too many zooms in my opinion. I had the same problem with that on “Battlestar Galactica,” but it didn't happen in every shot. It felt like there was at least one zoom in every shot in the film. But I think I'm just nitpicking here.
In Summation: It's an interesting, and original concept for a movie, with a pretty decent script, all in all. The actors were able to work well with the material, and it was a nice detour from the recent material Reilly and Hill have been famous for, and I hope they do more like this in the future. And while this movie is far from perfect, it is rather enjoyable, if this is your cup of joe.
My Final Rating: 4/5 Stars