July 16, 2010
Cyrus (2010) **1/2
Directed by Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass
Cyrus (2010)- All the laugh out loud moments are at the service of a false, lazy and empty movie. **1/2 out of 5
I'm not yet fully convinced that the low budget genre known as mumblecore has the potential to leave a lasting impression on cinema history. I've only seen a few mumblecore movies, but I've always been left wanting more. The idea that the actors are allowed to improvise their dialogue and to some extent play around with the direction of the narrative seems intriguing in theory, but in practice, when we see actors making it up as they go along, aren't we simply seeing a lazy final product? After all, masterpieces often take a great deal of effort. When I go to the movies, I want to be respected as a viewer enough that I feel as if I'm seeing everyone's best effort. Mumblecore by definition almost seems bound to provide first or second take sequences that aren't as good as they could have been if they were scripted well. Perhaps this is the flaw in the genre--success results by accident.
Even with some quality moments, it's hard to translate fractured off-the-cuff scenes into an entire film that feels cohesive. Cyrus is the perfect example of this with quite a few gags that are truly hilarious. Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly are both gifted comedians, and they're able to milk the comedy out of the awkward plot quite well. The problem lies in the fact that Cyrus as a whole is meant to be quite serious and sentimental, and though the comedy works, the serious, sentimental elements come off artificial and inorganic.
The plot centers around a man named John who's been divorced a number of years. He's played by Reilly, an actor who deserves more leading roles. When his ex-wife, played by Catherine Keener, tells him that she's getting remarried, he doesn't take it well which propels her to invite him to a party the next night where he meets an attractive woman named Molly played by Marisa Tomei. They hit it off and things are going swimmingly until he finds out that she has a 22 year old son named Cyrus, played by Hill. This mother/son relationship goes beyond extremely close, which makes the addition of John into the equation difficult for everyone, especially Cyrus who begins to act out in pretty significant ways.
As I said before, the comedy is very funny. Connected with that though is one of the biggest problems of the movie--namely Jonah Hill. He chooses to play Cyrus with no nuance whatsoever--so much so that he comes off as a bit of a sociopath. At the end, the audience is expected to believe that his character has grown in these profound ways, but Hill's performance doesn't leave room for any expectation that growth is possible with Cyrus, who's pretty much a monster in Hill's hand, albeit a pretty hilarious monster.
The same issue also arises from the way in which the relationship between Molly and Cyrus is played out. Molly is a bad mother, and Cyrus' antisocial tendencies are her fault considering some of the things she allows him to do, which included home schooling him and allowing him into the bathroom when she's showering. The shower scene in particular is very funny but at the expense of the ability of the audience to believe that the ending is possible with such screwed up individuals.
Overall, the film Cyrus feels unfinished, which is precisely my problem with mumblecore as a whole. Who wants to spend money on a first draft? I'll keep hoping for a truly satisfying example of mumblecore--last year's Humpday was pretty close. However to be convinced, I'm going to need a movie that feels complete. I, as a filmgoer, deserve only the best.