The relationship between mother and child is of course the sort of union that is unparalleled to that of a sibling or romantic interest. When this relationship is brought to a level of self-destruction and delusion, it can become detrimental to both parties involved. Cyrus tells the story of a mother (Tomei) and her adult son (Hill) – the eponymous Cyrus – as they move through life as an inseparable family unit that borders on unhealthy. The absurdity of this union is first magnified when mother Molly begins to spend time with a man other then her son (Riley). Almost immediately Cyrus feels threatened that this new boyfriend may forever impinge on their solitary life together.
Cyrus aims to showcase the boundaries of love and family and the universal trutth of these relationships. Throughout the course of the film, directors the Brothers Duplass challenge the audience with the uncomfortable nature, with unconventional and inappropriate feelings are vividly painted on screen. Posessing many of the qualities of the ‘mumblecore’ movement that made their name, this Duplass cration is structured around the dichotomy of selfish desires and selfless love, and which of these truths, if any, are strong enough to maintain a meaningful and lasting bond?
John C Reilly plays John, a divorced editor with a self-loathing personality and an awkward sense of humor that somehow manages to attract women clearly out of his league. In an effort to move on from his past love and good friend, Jamie (Keener), John is dragged to a mixer where he meets the girl of his dreams. Molly and John share an immediate chemistry despite an initial drunken interaction that inevitably begins a rocky road to love.
Unbeknownst to John, Molly’s hides the news of her dependent adult son as the only man in her life for the past twenty odd years. Despite an overwhelming affection for his mother, Cyrus almost immediately begins to sabotage her new relationship with adolescent tactics, rather then the rational of a young adult. He goes so far as to take measures of hiding items of John’s clothes and lie about the severity of his health condition as a way to redirect his mother’s attention. Molly must then decide between the two men, and inevitably figure out if her parental tactics have somehow damaged the social growth of her son.
As an actor, Reilly is capable of playing a leading romantic character and yet his pairing with Marissa Tomei makes you question the casting choice slightly. Although Reilly is hardly a hunk, his quirky sense of humor is usually enough to sympathize with, yet these traits are rarely flushed out within the context of this film. Marisa Tomei maintains an effortless beauty, yet emotional dependency issues showcase a troubled women with the inability to let go.
Somehow, despite the pairing of an emotional wreck with a severe lack of motivation and goals, the coupling choice works. The director’s makes an odd choice in the casting choice for Cyrus, and the part was always written with Jonah Hill in mind. Hill manages to pull off the character to the best of his ability, yet to believe Jonah as the offspring of Marissa is almost laughable. The obvious notes of attraction between the two transcend the line between what is acceptable between mother and son.
By casting a boy with such stature and look of maturity, it becomes easy to wonder if the clear notes of eroticism are in fact reciprocated between the two, which surely was never the point. The audience is therefore forced to watch this twisted reality that becomes magnified by Cyrus’ robust nature, similar to that of his mother’s new boyfriend.
We are first introduced to John, we catch him masturbating in the bedroom of a trashed apartment resembling that of a college student. Within in minutes, his ex-wife finds him in a half-naked state and proclaims his adolescence, forcing him out of the house much like a mother reprimanding her young son. John is next spotted at a party where much like a scared young man, results to drinking an excess of alcohol to fit in, dances in the middle of the floor screaming, and proceeds to relieve himself in the woods next to his fellow party goers and future girlfriend. Somehow impressed with this lack of integrity, Molly begins to flirt with the loner and fails to notice the immaturity as a flaw, but rather an attractive asset.
Although the Brothers Duplass makes a concerted effort with this script, the casting decisions really do distract the audience from the desperate nature of all three leading characters. Each one of them yearns for love, yet the awkward chemistry made the film fairly difficult to find anyone to identify with. Marisa Tomei is flawless, funny and quirky, in her role as Molly and understands the dimensions in her troubled character without wallowing in them. John C Reilly manages to embrace the relationship with this beauty by the end so the audience feels that he may actual deserve her. Despite the aim at honesty, Jonah Hill fails to live up to the example of his co-stars, despite the complex nature of his character. He instead results back to his slapstick sidekick comedy routine that does little justice to the title role.
Starring: Jonah Hill, John C. Reily, Catherine Keener, Marisa Tomei
Director: Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
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