Thursday, November 03, 2011


Written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass, Cyrus tells the story of a middle-aged divorcee who meets a single mother as an attraction spark. Then he meets the woman’s twenty-something son as a battle between the two men emerge. The film is a departure of sorts from the Duplass’ mumble core filmmaking style for something more accessible and with a slightly bigger budget. Starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, Matt Walsh, and Catherine Keener. Cyrus is a witty yet charming film from the Duplass Brothers.

After being invited by his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener) to an engagement party she’s having with her fiancee Tim (Matt Walsh), John (John C. Reilly) reluctantly attends the party as he still hasn’t gotten over his divorce with Jamie that happened some years ago. Later that night, he meets a woman named Molly (Marisa Tomei) as the two manage to hit it off. After another successful date, John wants to know more about Molly as he drives to her house later that night to follow as he meets her 21-year old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill). John spends time with Molly and Cyrus where he finds their relationship too close as it seems as he tries to scoff it off.

While John gets advice from Jamie about what to do about Cyrus, he tries to play it cool and let things happen until Cyrus has a night terror that is followed by a private conversation between John and Cyrus. John decides to give Molly and Cyrus some alone time until another tantrum from Cyrus happens that leads him to move out. John then learns what Cyrus is up to as he wonders what to do as he and Molly start to enjoy each other. When Cyrus decides to return after claiming to have a panic attack, Molly lets him back in though John remains suspicious. With Jamie’s wedding coming, he asks Cyrus not to cause any trouble leading to a battle of wits between the two men over Molly.

The film is about a down-on-his-luck divorcee who finds a new love in his life in this woman who has a 21-year old son. The relationship between the title character and his mother is one that seems very unnatural to the man who is dating this woman as he ends up going into battle with this young man. The Duplass Brothers’ script dwells into this relationship and how this man seems to intrude in the relationship between a woman and her son. While a story like that can fall into clich├ęs but the Duplass Brothers don’t go into that since the son is a 21-year old musician/photographer. At the same time, the mother is a free-spirited figure who like to be with her son as she is attracted to this divorced man who isn’t some typical guy.

The script studies the three central characters as well as John’s relationship with his ex-wife Jamie. The latter of which reveals that while John still has some feelings towards her, that all changes to a more platonic friendship once Molly comes into the picture. Molly brings something different for John which gets him excited about life again though he has to contend with Cyrus. Cyrus is a young man that really doesn’t like the idea of some guy intruding on what was already a steady and fulfilling relationship with his mother. He decides to play mind games with John through a series of dialogue and such that plays with John’s head only to realize that John is not going to back down. While the script does a have a few flaws over the lack of coverage towards’ Jamie’s fiancee Tim and a predictable ending. It does manage to create a story that is pretty funny and also low-key in its approach to the drama.

The direction of the Duplass Brothers is similar to their loose style with a lot of hand-held cameras with a few zoom shots that emerges. Yet, it’s more polished than their previous work as there’s also some restraint to what they do in the direction. Notably in a lot of the character-driven scenes as it’s all about intimacy for what the Duplass Brothers go for as well as engage themselves in this dysfunctional relationship between a man, his new girlfriend, and her son. While the direction overall is mostly straightforward with a stylized approach, it does manage to create a solid comedy-drama from the Duplass Brothers.

Cinematographer Jas Shelton does a brilliant job with the film‘s cinematography with a vibrant yet straightforward look to a lot of the daytime scenes as it‘s shot on location in Los Angeles. While the interior shots are low-key in its approach to lighting for some of its nighttime scenes, the nighttime exterior shots do have a gorgeous look to the way the city looks at night. Editor Jay Deuby does an excellent job with the editing as it’s also straightforward but maintains a leisured yet methodical pace to play up the film’s minimalist tone.

Production designer Annie Spitz and Meg Everist do a nice job with the set pieces created such as the homes of John and Molly, the latter of which features electronic music equipment for Cyrus. Costume designer Roemehl Hawkins does a good job with the clothes as a lot of it is very casual to represent the personalities of the characters. Sound editor Larry Blake does some fine work with the sound to emphasize the location and atmosphere for some of the party scenes and the music that Cyrus plays in the house.

The film’s folky score by Michael Andrews is superb for its low-key yet sparse arrangements with a few strings in the background to play up some of the melancholia in the film. The soundtrack that is supervised by Marguerite Phillips is a mixture of folk, electronic music, and pop music that includes John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei both singing along to the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me.

The film’s cast is wonderful though it’s main ensemble is very small as it includes Matt Walsh in a small but underused role as Jamie’s fiancee Tim while Catherine Keener is very good as John’s supportive ex-wife Jamie. Marisa Tomei is excellent as Molly, the free-spirited woman who likes to play around while dealing with her son’s issues as Tomei brings a charming yet warm approach to her character. John C. Reilly is superb as John, a down-on-his-luck guy who is finally getting his life together while dealing with the presence of this young man as he is forced to go into battle. Finally, there’s Jonah Hill in the titular character as Hill brings a more restrained approach to his character with bits of subtle humor and sly sarcasm as he makes Cyrus into a complex yet troubled character in what is definitely one of Hill’s finest performances of his career.

Cyrus is a stellar yet intriguing film from the Duplass Brothers featuring top-notch performances from John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, and Marisa Tomei. While it’s a more polished film than their previous work, it is still an engaging film as the Duplass Brothers don’t stray too much into their style. Notably in doing something new with a premise that has been told many times in more mainstream films. In the end, Cyrus is a smart yet enjoyable comedy-drama from Jay and Mark Duplass.

Duplass Brothers Films: (The Puffy Chair) - (Baghead) - (The Do-Deca-Pentathlon) - (Jeff Who Lives at Home)

© thevoid99 2011


Sam Fragoso said...

Considering I'm a huge fan of the show The League - You'd think I'd about how Mark Duplass writes/directs.

Love his character on the show, perhaps I need to check out his other work.

Nice review man.

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. This is still the only thing I've seen what the Duplass brothers do in their entirety as I've only seen bits of their other films though I'm aware of what they do. I'm eager to check out more of their work.