Tuesday, July 19, 2011

3 paragraphs on Cyrus

2010, Mark and Jay Duplass -- Netflix

Cyrus teeters the line so finely between comedy and drama, that to some it will seem fully one or the other. I see it as a comedy full stop, but I can easily see how someone would find no humour in it at all. Cyrus isn't a dark comedy, in the traditional sense, but it is an emotional comedy, one where the characters leave everything out on the table to be cared for or abused by one another, and there is much caring and much abuse.

John C. Reilley is John, a freelance editor and long-time divorcee who has given up on life. His ex-wife, played by Catherine Keener, is still his best friend, which describes just how sad a state he's in. She forces him out to a house party to hopefully meet someone, which at one time was his element, but now he's just another awkward loser. Yet he does manage to have an impact on Molly (Marisa Tomei), to whom he quickly lays his heart bare, and she embraces it fully, but she's less than forthcoming with him. John, in a fit of curiosity follows Molly home, where he has an encounter with Molly's son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill). Cyrus is obviously intelligent, but reclusive, socially awkward, and makes John feel uneasy. Molly and Cyrus have an uncomfortably close relationship, a she homeschooled him entirely and he attended college through on-line courses. They have their traditions and routines which John sees at best awkward and at worst wholly inappropriate. Soon John begins to suspect Cyrus is trying to interfere in his quickly blossoming relationship with Molly, and he's torn between fuelling his paranoia or giving the 22-year-old kid some leeway.

Hollywood relationship comedies have trained us to expect characters to be stupid, to blow things out of proportion, to see only what the script wants them to see to further the comedic conceit. Instead, Cyrus pulls back at every potential occurrence for misunderstanding and grounds the situation appropriately. While perhaps never achieving the laugh-out-loud hilarity some comedies seek, Cyrus still amuses consistently, all while coming from a very relatable core. When John tells Molly that he hates her son, as a stepfather myself, that's an immensely powerful scene, yet it's also surprisingly funny, and Molly's reaction is completely natural, sensible even. These aren't poorly drawn facsimiles of people, they behave in a way that seems like they've thought through the situations they are in and react and speak accordingly. More than I liked the film, I appreciated it a great deal for how it trusts its audience to connect and relate with its characters as real people.