Friday, July 16, 2010
CYRUS: MY REVIEW
As Hollywood continues to churn out movies that seek to do little more than try and drum up a spending frenzy it's easy to become jaded. When you do what I do, which is to place a critical eye on a world that breaks its arm patting itself on the back, the cynicism can run deep.
That cynicism almost made me miss the Jonah Hill, John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei film Cyrus because I have become so sick of Jonah Hill doing, well, essentially "Jonah Hill". I also didn't want to see another kooky indie comedy with all the right scenes and people and shots starring Jonah Hill being nutty. I'm happy to report that's not what I saw when I finally sat down to view Cyrus.
What I did see was a film that lacked pretense and felt natural and very real. Often small independent films rely on the style of how the movie is shot instead of content(for examples watch anything Sofia Coppola has done). Cyrus does a very simple thing by giving us real characters going through a real story. Even the way the movie is shot is incredibly basic point the camera and shoot.
In Cyrus John C. Reilly plays a John, a depressed mess of a man who still pines for the ex-wife (Jamie played by Catherine Keener) he lost to divorce seven years ago. He meets the lovely and approachable Molly played by Marisa Tomei and the two begin a relationship that becomes complicated by Tomei's 22 year old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill) a man-baby mommas boy with a selfish streak so pronounced it boarders on cruel.
The storyline is simple and realistic and allows the actors to shine every step of the way. For the first time in ages Jonah Hill steps away from his shtick (including the perm) and just acts. Cyrus is loathsome in what he does but you don't hate him, you actually feel for him.
The way the script is laid out it would've been easy for Hill to make the character seem either too disturbed or too funny. Instead Hill walks a thin line perfectly that allows us to see how desperate his actions are and how dysfunctional Cyrus is but without vilifying him or making him so hammy it kills all the drama in the movie.
John C. Reilly also steps out of his comfort zone by forgoing his normal "quirky" behavior for more of straight performance. He doesn't chew scenes up here like he normally does, instead he lets the character ease out of him and blend with the other actors. Watching his character John struggle between the deep need to feel loved, his love for Tomei's Molly and the deck stacked against him by Cyrus is some of the best acting Reilly done in years.
The really champion of the movie is Maris Tomei who first of all is so real and so true that you believe somebody as beautiful as her as a single mother. Unlike Reilly and Hill, Tomei has much more to do and she does it effortlessly. So much of the back story between her and Cyrus comes from how she interacts with him, these little moments that show how dedicated she is.
Tomei does such a good job that you never feel like Molly is some stupid mother blinded by devotion. She's a woman who put her son first and has forgotten what it is to want something just for her. With that part of her gone Molly ignores what Cyrus is in order to hold on to what she feels is all she has.
When Molly meets Reilly, a man just as needy for love, it reawakens that part of her. Tomei delivers on all counts here making us somebody you root for not just to get with John but to also get her shit together with Cyrus. . It's a performance that stands toe to toe with her two costars.
The glue holding all of it together is Catherine Keener (can you not make an indie film without out her these days). You completely buy her guilt-driven devotion to John which in turn makes their relationship work. If it hadn't then the film would have totally fallen apart. Look for an awesome turn from Matt Walsh as Keener's new husband.
Script wise Cyrus could be seen as slight because it feels as if the actors are just talking, having real conversations. The script feels so unscripted I'm sure there will be those who think it's not a good script. For me I loved that everybody didn't have the perfect thing to say, that there isn't this one scene where it all works out, that everybody has to come to grips with their issues and that nothing is sure in life. Cyrus is uplifting and realistic at the same time. I didn't find one false moment in the movie at all.
Sure there are a couple of minor plot devices that feel forced but outside of nitpicking bullshit I was thoroughly charmed by Cyrus. Am I gushing, maybe I am but after a summer of loud, buzzing hollow movies it was nice to see a quiet film that just wanted to tell a story. Especially without any of the hipster bullshit that usually goes along with "indie" films.