Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass
I love John C. Reilly. There’s just something about him, not only as an actor, but I imagine as an individual, that is completely translucent. Whatever emotion he is trying convey is easily picked up upon by even the most unobservant of viewers. It’s ironic that he has chosen a profession that calls upon him to essentially lie all the time, when it is clear from every expression on his face, he can’t hide anything. So, in many ways, his role in “Cyrus” is a case of perfect casting. He plays a man who is absolutely incapable of not wearing his heart on his sleeve. And through his interactions with Molly, played by Marisa Tomei, and her son Cyrus, played by Jonah Hill, Reilly manages to create picture perfect portrait of this character.
If I had one criticism of “Cyrus” it is that the film is far too controlled. Unlike Reilly, the film goes out of its way to not show you the hand it’s playing. It’s not until 3/4 of the way through the film that everything is laid bare, and by that point it’s almost too late. Basically, “Cyrus” should have pushed itself to be a little bit more outrageous than it actually is. Through the relationship of Reilly and Hill, the film teases that it’s going to bring their slow-burning altercations to a boil, but when they finally do so, the resulting scene is more lukewarm than it is searing. Most of the blame probably lies on the co-directors, who seem to want us to both relate to Jonah Hill’s character while at the same time seeing him as the most insane 21-year old mama’s boy in the world. You can’t really have it both ways. And I think that if they had pushed the character to be less relatable and more bona-fide lunatic, something truly magical could have occurred.
But as we have it, “Cyrus” is still a very entertaining story. It pushes the right emotional buttons and through Reilly’s performance, becomes something quite good. Marisa Tomei also contributes a great deal and helps turn her relationship with Reilly into one of the more heartfelt and realistic ones I have seen on screen in quite some time. If I have harped on “Cyrus'” short comings, it is only because that as good as it is, there was potential for so much more.
Though in retrospect, the conversation that Reilly has at the beginning of the film about the state of his life (heard at the beginning of the trailer) and the subsequent conversation he has with Cyrus towards the end of the film about the importance of his ex-wife’s wedding to him, are two of the funniest things I have seen all year. The first one because of Reilly’s perfectly subtle and heartbreaking expression and the second because of the outrageous absurdity of it all. (“Do you know what it feels like to be knocked out? Unconscious?”) Maybe I am being too hard. I will say this, “Cyrus” is definitely a film that grows on you.