If you have seen the trailer for indie film de jour “Cyrus” then you can skip the movie. Consider yourself fortunate. Any moments in “Cyrus” that were the least bit surprising or interesting, and believe me these were few and far between, had already been telegraphed by the film’s trailer. As a result I was way ahead of this movie, but the trailer is only one of my problems with “Cyrus.”
In “Cyrus” craggy faced actor John C. Reilly plays socially awkward John who gets the beautiful Marisa Tomei, who plays Molly, with almost no effort. Only in the movies. One would think that a film like “Cyrus” which seems to revel in its self-perceived hip, low budget, indie, “edgy” aesthetic would avoid the Hollywood cliché of the “nebbishy” guy getting together with the really cute woman. It is interesting that right before John meets Molly he is at a party talking to a woman who is less attractive than Molly but much more in John’s league. John is open and honest with this woman concerning his feelings about himself. It is a nice scene. I cannot help but think how much more interesting the story would have been if it had stayed with John and this less attractive woman, who soon excuses herself and is not seen again. I mean two unattractive people forming a relationship? Paddy Chayefsky did this in the days of live TV drama with a teleplay called “Marty” and it revolutionized TV over night. No such luck here.
“Cyrus” is about how John and Molly’s romance heads for rough waters dues to Cyrus, Molly’s irritating, over weight son who has a mother complex. He tries, passive/aggressively, to sabotage his mother’s relationship with John. Cyrus is played by Jonah Hill. Hill’s performance is catatonic and deadpan, and seems to have been directed that way because I guess directors Jay and Mark Duplass mistakenly thought this would be funny.
The film’s visual, directorial and editorial styles are dull. The scenes consist mostly of alternating close-ups. Since the film has two good actors, Reilly and Tomei, is it asking too much to see them interact with and play off each other in the same frame? For example Woody Allen directs this way and it seems to have worked well for him. My guess is that much of “Cyrus” was shot with a camera on each actor and the individual close ups just made it easier to edit later. The result is filmmaking which, while safe for the filmmakers, is uninspired. Along these lines the film has lots of jerky camera work featuring self-conscious, abrupt zoom ins and zoom outs which give it a documentary feel. Why? I guess it felt “edgy.”
Ultimately “Cyrus” falls flat with a dull, unsatisfying third act. Of course this is the only part of the story not given away in the film’s trailer.
Cyrus, Directors Jay and Mark Duplass, 2010,
Fox Searchlight Pictures, 92 minutes, rated R