Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei and John C. Reilly carry the comic characters of Cyrus.
Listen here, punk
By John Esther
Working at their own wonderful pace, writers-directors Jay and Mark Duplass continue to make quirky films, each one incrementally an improvement over the last.
The latest from the brothers who brought us The Puffy Chair and Baghead is Cyrus, a film radiating with a joy for filmmaking.
John C. Reilly plays John, a lonely man who is unable to control his inner sadness. This melancholy has already cost him a wife, Jamie (Catherine Keener).
Fortunately for John, he and Jamie are still friends and, after catching him masturbating to rap and porn, Jamie invites John to a party.
At the party, John displays his social ineptitude with poor pickup lines and easy inebriation. It is a rough go until, as in most male-oriented films, John meets a woman who would really be out of his league, Molly (Marisa Tomei).
John and Molly immediately hit it off. They want to take it calmly but those molecules buzz when they are together. Soulmates! But no great love in comedy comes without a catch: Molly lives with another man, her son Cyrus (Jonah Hill), an awkward 21-year-old who composes Eno-esque music, speaks frankly and has panic attacks.
While Cyrus seems to like John, it becomes increasingly clear there is tension in the air. That tension comes to a machismo challenge with each man vying for Molly’s sole attention.
Fortunately, rather than taking it down the Mr. Woodcock road, Cyrus maintains a dramatic sobriety while maintaining a good deal of comedy.
Aside from the male-gaze flaws, the script crackles with authentic dialogue between two sets of people who love one another — a man and a woman and a mother and son. (This is no doubt why the brothers were able to attract such a stellar cast for a modestly budgeted film.)
Complimenting the writing and acting is the joyful direction by the brothers and the cinematography by Jas Shelton. With various levels of smoothness, the camera flows between the characters. While this framing and focus often comes off as clumsy in other films, here it works. You can feel everybody is simply enjoying the craft of filmmaking and, moreover, it is a great compliment to the actors.
The filmmakers are intent on reminding the audience they are watching a film; yet, because the acting is so solid, a strong connection remains between with the characters. I expect Gala selection to appear at next year's Indie Spirit Awards.
(Cyrus screens June 18, 8 p.m., Regal Cinemas)