Yeah, my Mom and I would wrestle like that all the time … not.

Theatrical Release Date: 07/02/2010
Directors: Jay & Mark Duplass
Cast: John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh

Fresh off the festival circuit, where it garnered quite a bit of buzz and indie street cred, the Duplass brothers (“The Puffy Chair” and “Baghead”) enter a third feature film into their canon, “Cyrus”. A story of an emotionally stalled man (John C. Reilly) who meets the seemingly perfect woman at a party (Marisa Tomei), there is one key twist.

Not only does she have a son (Jonah Hill as the titular Cyrus), but he’s 21, still living at home and the mother/son bond is a bit too close for comfort. And therein lies the key problem with the film. Watching these characters interact all together, it’s uncomfortable at best – unbearable at times (the awkwardness of certain scenes had me cringing).

Now, I’m not against seeing characters have to endure certain amounts of strife or struggle with their emotional development. On the contrary, I tend to enjoy films that explore those areas. However, what the Duplass brothers have failed to do here is develop the characters’ journeys enough to make it all believable.

Reilly’s character is a husk of a man at the beginning of the film. His ex-wife (Catherine Keener) is getting remarried and he’s all alone in his life. Within a few days of meeting Tomei, he’s able to emit an amazing amount of emotional strength and exhibits archetypal caretaker instincts like he just graduated from Deepak Chopra State University.

Tomei and Hill are joined at the hip and although this could have been an interesting avenue to explore, it’s sort of glossed over as the two men must try to outwit another to garner the affection of the woman between them. It sort of turns into “Step Brothers” for a few minutes before returning to its more dramatic center (all with a quirky comedic tinge … ugh).

I will give the three central actors some credit for their performances. The Reilly/Tomei relationship was often sweet and heartwarming. Hill played the character in as straight-forward a manner as the directors seemed to ask of him. However, while the romantic angle worked for the most part, it was as if the Duplass brothers had separate intentions for the underlying elements in Hill’s character.

There are moments early in the film where Cyrus may be a bit off his meds and it wouldn’t be a shock to the system to see him go postal and attempt to dump Reilly’s body in a landfill. When things come to a breaking point between him and his mother, Cyrus then exhibits the more relatable insecurity and abandonment issues that make more sense given the context of the film but are too quickly resolved in order to keep the running time at a not brisk enough 92 minutes.

Simply put, although it would have been a test of finding the right pacing, each character needed more development in order to allow their emotional development to make sense. Personal breakthroughs happen when the filmmakers ask it of them, rather than as an organic process during the proper course.

Adding onto the film’s problems is one of the most annoying aspects of “Cyrus” from a technical standpoint: the quick zoom camera technique the Duplass brothers apparently just discovered after watching “WALL·E” and/or “Star Trek (2009)“. Seeing as no one in this film is a robot or spaceship and this isn’t a science fiction film, zipping in close from what is already a simple two shot seems purely pretentious and unnecessary. It’s great to learn new methods of film making, however don’t experiment with a paying audience in a genre that requires none of this gimmickry.

On a positive note, the film does break with generic romantic comedy convention and tries to be more than another simple tale of a broken people who manage to make themselves whole through their pairing. Still, there simply wasn’t enough character development and a seemingly indecisive manner in which to portray the title character undercuts the level to which I could go along with it all. I understand why “Cyrus” managed to make film festival attendees happy due to its non-conformity but the bottom line is that the characters aren’t likable enough to make sitting through it all worth the money, hence I’m giving it a 2 out of 5.

If you’re still really interested (and I don’t begrudge you if that’s the case, though I don’t understand either), wait for DVD or its eventual appearance on cable TV. There aren’t any explosions or blue CGI indigenous folk to make a costly trip to theater worth it and I’m sure your LCD/Plasma/LED doohickey can handle the quick zooms just fine.