Film review: Cyrus | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Film review: Cyrus

Director: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass

Cast: Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, John C. Reilly

Running Time: 92 mins

Rating: 4/5

Like Nanette Burstein’s Going the Distance, also reviewed this week, here is another film from Sundance directors. This time, the Duplass brothers are behind the camera. And unlike Going the Distance, which is happy to meander into the mainstream, the Duplass brothers stick firmly to their indie roots.

Undoubtedly, this will thwart the expectations of many audiences because Cyrus – which tells the tale of a troubled relationship between John (John C Reilly) and his new girlfriend’s son (Jonah Hill) – had been promoted as your typical loud, outrageous, Anchorman comedy. Both the trailer and the poster (boasting the crass tag-line ‘Don’t f*ck his mum’) appear to be aimed at juvenile cinemagoers.

Well, audiences will be in for a shock.

Cyrus is not noisy or gross-out or surreal. This is not Reilly in Step Brothers or Talladega Nights mode but rather sees him return to the subtle comedy of his earlier Paul Thomas Anderson performances. It is a welcome return to form. Hill is equally impressive and will surprise many by downplaying the comedy to turn a potentially larger-than-life character into something believable.

In true Sundance style, the Duplass brothers recognise that comedy does not require over-the-top caricatures. They ask their cast to actually act in-between (and during) the comedy, as opposed to just falling back on Ferrell-style shouting. As such, every character is fully sketched and completely believable, which is quite an accomplishment considering some of Cyrus’ plots against John.

Again, like Going the Distance, Cyrus is a comedy that benefits from a relatable premise: bonding with the children of a new partner. Nowhere is this situation better grounded than with Marisa Tomei who perfectly sells her role as the tug-of-war rope between John and Cyrus. She is the emotional anchor in the film, torn between her loyalty as a mother and her yearning for happiness in a new relationship. You will be reminded why she is an Oscar-winner.

The Duplass brothers admirably give their actors free reign to improvise, loosely scripting each scene and then allowing the cast to flesh out their own characters. The film was also shot in order, permitting the actors to live the story themselves and gain some ownership over the characters. This sort of indie film-making lends the film a sophistication which proves that just because you are making a comedy, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking it seriously.

The ending might be a little flat - with the focus shifting to John and Cyrus’ reconciliation, as opposed to that between John and Molly - but this is a minor quibble and admittedly the relationship between the men is more deserving of resolution.

For all involved, this is a triumph. The Duplass brothers are key players in the comedy genre, whilst Hill discovers – and Reilly rediscovers – that comedy is not just about loud noises.


18th September 2010 at 4:59 pm

Last Updated

18th September 2010 at 5:09 pm