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Friday, July 30, 2010


Title: Cyrus

Year of Release: 2010

Date Viewed: July 24th, 2010

MPAA Rating: R

If Grown Ups was proof that you can predict exactly what you're in for when viewing the cast list, Cyrus is proof that you cannot. Best known for their work in Judd Apatow produced comedies, actors John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill contribute to the independent scene and the results could be vastly different than what you would expect.

Reilly's character is named John. That should give you an idea of how laid back this production is. The actor doesn't even have to respond to a new name. John is a depressed guy grieving over a divorce and watching his ex-wife get remarried before he does. Almost completely withdrawing from social gatherings, John is eventually talked into attending a party to meet someone new. And low and behold, he actually succeeds. But not before getting boozed up on vodka and singing bad karaoke in front of all the guests. Doesn't matter though. She digs it. The "she" I'm referring to is named Molly (Marisa Tomei).

The new lovers decide that their chemistry is so grand that Molly invites John to stay at her house to practice their love some more. John is more than happy to oblige but encounters a surprise at the first visit. Molly does not live alone. Clinging to her like a dog to his master, Molly's twenty-one year old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill) takes on a strange fascination towards John. He cannot stop staring and is always showing up at the most unwelcome times. Their conversations are always awkward mostly because Cyrus seems to give off a weird vibe. John shrugs it off at first then later has a hunch that Cyrus is protecting or hiding something.

Suspicions rise higher after John notices that Molly never wants to leave the house. And Cyrus' medical history of panic attacks increase to the point where Molly has to sacrifice time with John in order to give him special attention. Is Cyrus trying to sabotage the relationship?

John confronts Cyrus and demands to know the truth. He discovers that he was already in a battle for Molly's exclusive attention. The feud turns playful to ugly really fast. And it appears that only one can prevail.

The majority of this film's dialogue sounds oddly natural. Conversations are brief because the characters are often at a loss for words, even when they clearly have things to say. One reason for this is that the movie tries to keep things down-to-earth. It's the sort of comedy where audiences can relate to the universe depicted on the screen. The other reason is that the actors were given virtually unlimited improvisational freedom. Scenes were set up and the cast was trusted to make something out of it. This technique works well at keeping things grounded but can also lead to suffering of plot pacing and entertainment value. Sadly, this is one of those cases. Too many scenes left me wanting more or wondering what could have been instead of appreciating what was there.

Hill's performance is one of his creepiest and best. The way he stares at Reilly's character could fool someone into believing he really does have some sort of chip on his shoulder. Reilly sticks to what he does best and acts as the laid back guy who enjoys cracking jokes. Both actors are given a fair share of moments to shine. Overall, the character direction is very good.

The same cannot be said about the cinematography. The camera shakes around so much that a simple conversation scene can turn nauseating. The most annoying thing is the over-reliance on zoom-ins. This technique should always be kept to a minimum no matter what genre but these filmmakers seem to be so in love with it that the zoom-in seems to occur randomly, losing any potential for a dramatic close-up. I realize this was always intended to be a low budget picture but a little more variety would be a lot easier on the eyes.

The final result is a film that tries hard to be different and offers a moderate amount of laughing opportunities. Its indy trademarks can be too obvious for the casual film watcher to get around. I say give it a rental for the highlights and avoid paying a movie ticket to watch the low points on a big screen. Your eyes don't deserve that kind of treatment.

Rating: 6

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