by Sawyer J. Lahr
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Two months after the Hollywood/mumblecore mash-up Greenburg, the directors of Puffy Chair and Baghead join up with a cast of at least two of the best actors working in the business to release a tragically comic story of a clingy ex-husband (John C. Reily) and a momma’s boy played by Jonah Hill. The momma (Marissa Tomei) is outstanding in a difficult role that could have easily been confused for incest. It’s a special relationship. A less codependent, more symbiotic creative bond has intensified between director brothers Jay and Mark Duplass in their latest feature (two others being produced currently by Searchlight).
Cyrus inspires one to see how a more improvisational style changes the actors’ performances and if working with major actors would conversely influence the directors. Both the refined acting and the young filmmakers were surprisingly fresh in a familiar formula. The Duplass brothers got what they wanted: verite, documentary-like filmmaking encapsulated in the loser boy meets dysfunctional girl genre. Rather than another romantic interest or an ex-wife or ex-girlfriend splitting up the union, it’s a very unusually but not unrealistic mother-son relationship. As for the ex-wife, Catherine Keener is the most relaxed ex trying to get him date again so she doesn’t have to take his calls at three in the morning.
Jonah Hill who is better known for his role in Superbad is perfectly cast as the son too old to be living with his mother. He so snidely fakes panic attacks and steals shoes to sabotage his mother’s chance for a functional relationship that doesn’t include him.
Less referential than the Coen brothers, Jay and Mark Duplass managed to convince Fox Searchlight they could make a studio movie and maintain their loosely structured style. With seemingly minor compromises, the camera still jerkily zooms without detracting unnecessarily from the star performances protecting the film from total obscurity.
Sawyer J. Lahr is Chief Editor of the forthcoming online publication, Go Over the Rainbow. He also writes a monthly film column for Mindful Metropolis, a conscious living magazine in Chicago, IL.
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