Movie Review: CYRUS

I usually find Jonah Hill obnoxious in the roles he’s played but he surprised me in Cyrus, the indie film written and directed by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass (limited release, June 18). Hill plays the title character, a son in arrested development who lives with his mama (Marisa Tomei) and loves her just a little too much. When John (John C. Reilly) starts dating Molly and the relationship quickly turns serious, Cyrus launches a passive-aggressive attack—passive and needier than ever with Mom, escalating war when he’s alone with John. What results is a lesson for all parties involved in knowing when to let go and when to fight for something.

Hill is the revelation here. Shorn of his big hair, he’s lowered his usual manic energy to a stillness and fake politeness that makes him a disturbing opponent, a barely contained nutjob you keep waiting to go off the deep end. When Molly is in the room, Cyrus turns on big innocent eyes a la Puss in Boots in the Shrek movies, but then gives John the finger and mouths profanities at him behind Mom’s back. Cyrus’s nastiness isn’t surprising if you’ve seen Hill in movies like Superbad, but the actor also displays a vulnerable side here that suggests he’s got solid dramatic chops.

Reilly turns in masterful work as usual, making us believe a schlub like him could actually land a sexy woman like Tomei (“I’m like Shrek. What are you doing in the forest with Shrek?”). John is too raw and honest for most humans but we can see why he’s endearing to Molly, who’s way past falling for guys who play games. Tomei once again proves her long-ago Oscar is not a fluke, imbuing Molly with a wariness that makes her believable as someone unlucky in love despite her obvious physical gifts.

Though Oedipal tones and wrongness abound, the uncomfortable situations give rise to quite a few laughs. Is it wrong for Cyrus to wrestle with his mother? Did she breastfeed him for wayyy too long? It sounds absurd but the Duplass brothers keep the story grounded in these three lonely people’s need for love and prevent the movie from spinning into ridiculousness. The ending feels a little too pat but after all the weirdness, I was ready for these characters to have a little hope.

Nerd verdict: Sweet, funny Cyrus

Photos: Chuck Zlotnick

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    le0pard13
    June 17, 2010 at 6:47 am

    I hear you about Jonah Hill, Elyse. I pretty much feel the same way. And I can’t get enough of Marisa Tomei (I continue to believe she’s very underrated as an actress). So, based on your fine review, I’ll try and take this in. Thanks for this.

  • Reply
    Sue Ann Jaffarian
    June 17, 2010 at 7:43 am

    I wasn’t excited about this movie until I saw a trailer for it just yesterday. Your review clinches the deal. I must put it on my list of movies to see.

  • Reply
    Reader#9
    June 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Jonah Hill hasn’t been able to make me laugh yet. I must be one of the very few who thought Super Bad was really not that funny. Maybe replacing Michael Cera and Jonah Hill would have lifted the material a little. Don’t know and we never will know.

    I was planning to see Cyrus anyway, but not because of Hill. John C. Reilly is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood and he is one of those really funny guys who are funny without trying. He made me fall off my chair with his understated performance in Boogie Nights, but when he sang (which I didn’t know he could do) Mr. Cellophane in Chicago, he showed his real depth.

    He and Luis Guzman should get together and do a movie. I would pre-pay to see that!

    The combination of Reilly and Marisa Tomei is what interested me. Glad to hear you liked it and will report back after seeing it this weekend.

    YAY, PCN!!!

  • Reply
    EIREGO
    June 17, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    The trailer garnered my attention, so I was going to see Cyrus anyway. I am glad to see your stamp of approval on it. Not a lot of good films out this summer, but this one looked interesting.

  • Reply
    Pop Culture Nerd
    June 17, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    le0pard13—Tomei should be as big as Sandra Bullock. She’s just as talented & beautiful.

    Sue Ann—I wasn’t excited about this movie, either, but I went because, hey, free screening. It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised.

    Reader#9—I didn’t think Superbad was funny at all. And not because I was offended by the humor because I think you know by now I don’t offend easily!

    EIREGO—I’m so bored by the movies this summer. Besides Toy Story 3 & Winter’s Bone, the next one I want to see is Salt, which doesn’t come out until July 23.

  • Reply
    Donna
    June 17, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    I never saw ‘Superbad’; it had no appeal. Have seen Jonah Hill but can’t remember the movie(s)? But after seeing the ‘Cyrus’ trailer + the character he plays, THAT caught my attention. With Tomei + Reilly, it seemed an interesting movie to go watch. Have always like Tomei + Reilly. Both are excellent actors! Terrific review + will take in the film.

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    June 18, 2010 at 1:56 am

    I haven’t watched Jonah Hill in anything, but I’m fond of John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei and based on your excellent review, I’m kind of intrigued. Thanks as always, PCN!

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