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Hilarity is often brought to audiences via unbelievable, outrageous and extreme circumstances. “Cyrus,” however taps into sources of ordinariness to create not only genuinely funny moments, but genuine characters. Independent and understated filmmaking, crisp writing and intelligent comedic performances make “Cyrus” a refreshingly smart and surprisingly sweet comedy.
John (John C. Reilly) has come to terms with the fact that the only woman in his life is his best friend and newly-engaged ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener). So, when Jamie gets John to attend a party the last thing he expected to find was an attractive woman to sing and dance along with him when he busted into “Don’t You Want Me.” Molly (Marisa Tomei) finds John endearing and is attracted to him instantly. He doesn’t get it – “I’m like Shrek,” he tells her—but, their romance flourishes.
That is, until John meets Cyrus (Jonah Hill), Molly’s 21-year-old son. Cyrus has what he considers to a special relationship with his mother that he does not want to see compromised by the new guy that Molly clearly cares about. Cyrus uses subtle, but effective manipulation to steer his mother off track, but when John realizes that it’s a game he also picks up a bat and starts swinging. The two men, both careful not to look like the bad guy, engage until it goes wrong for everyone.
Jay and Mark Duplass, the writers and directors of the film, perform quite the balancing act—a minimalist style that creates a realistic setting, strong writing to create honest characters and a cast that brings them to life, that doesn’t turn them into caricatures. They definitely put the right team on the field with Reilly, Hill, Tomei and let’s not forget Keener. Reilly doesn’t play John as just a middle-aged, Shrek-looking schlepper, but as a witty, sensitive man afraid of losing a love he never thought he could have. Tomei’s portrayal of Molly is also a very precise and delicate one. Molly could have come off as delusional and irrational, but Tomei brings out Molly’s strength and understanding.
Jonah Hill proves that he can play a versatile character, with his very whole portrayal of the dysfunctional Cyrus. But—the classic wide-eyed, unwavering Jonah stare, the Jonah awkwardness and tension that stumbles along with his words—it’s all there for Jonah fans, and its great!
“Cyrus” is a simple, but insightful comedy that has the viewer laughing and engaged throughout the entire film. We’re laughing because it’s funny and we’re engaged because we care.
Sanela Djokovic is a writer living in the Bronx
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