The Duplass brothers (Baghead) are back this year with Cyrus, a dramatic comedy which comes stamped with the ‘mumblecore’ tag, although this is a far more mainstream effort than many others in the fledgling genre. Low budget and small in scale, it tells the story of John (John C. Reilly) and his relationship with new found love interest Molly. Only problem is, she has a twenty-one year old son named Cyrus (Jonah Hill) who, despite appearing friendly and mature, is far from happy with his mother’s new man.
That’s the basic setup, though the film is certainly a work that delves deeper into relationships than that synopsis may suggest. The Duplass brothers have crafted something here that mostly works very well, but that somehow fails to quite hit the mark in a truly memorable way.
The film’s pacing is good, though its runtime is also fairly short, and one feels the directors could have made more of the material by either speeding up the opening or by extending the cut. What they have is a great set up (how many filmic relationships begin with a chat-up line as memorable as “nice penis”?), but the film lacks an edge; the ending comes a little too soon and is preceded by a ‘declaration of war’ segment that, despite being filled with comic potential, feels overlooked and underused
The film’s failings are ironically magnified by the strength of its cast. Marisa Tomei is effortlessly likable and sweet as Molly, Reilly inhabits his everyman character with believability and Jonah Hill, playing duplicitous with adept subtlety whilst flourishing his comically icy stare, completes the package nicely. Everything works; it just doesn’t work quite well enough. The Duplass brothers even manage to meld comedy and drama to a satisfying effect (which isn’t easy) but the film is never quite as funny or affecting as it feels like it should be. Opportunities for the cast to riff off of each other in the trademark improvised style of mumblecore feel too few and far between to ignite the film’s comic potential.
Cyrus is a well made film, small in scale but with a big heart, and is worthy of recommendation. It won’t blow you away, and in some respects it feels like a missed opportunity, but there is something genuine about the Duplass’ film that is pleasing to see.