Reilly & Tomei's up-Hill Struggle
If I told you that "Cyrus" was about a divorced man finding love but discovering that the new woman in his life has a manipulative son who tries to split them up what would you think? If I told you that "Cyrus" also stars John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill and Catherine Keener amongst others would that make it any clearer? Now here is the thing "Cyrus" has a storyline which would not look out of place in a modern juvenile comedy, in fact the storyline reminded me slightly of "Step Brothers" and the cast are the sort of people who would appear in a Judd Apatow movie, but it isn't like that at all. And the reason why "Cyrus" isn't just another juvenile comedy is because it has a more indie feel, hand held camera shots which suddenly focus in, dialogue which thanks to some pauses feels like it is being made up as a scene develops and a less polished finished. And it works because it makes "Cyrus" more interesting and funnier than its mainstream counterparts and also a little touching, which is a pleasant surprise.
It's been 7 years since Jamie (Catherine Keener) divorced John (John C. Reilly - Step Brothers) and he still hasn't got over it, leading a solitary lifestyle having given up on love. That is until Jamie, who is still his closest friend forces him to go to a party where he meets the attractive Molly (Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler) who to his surprise is into him. The trouble is that Molly has a 21 year old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill - Funny People), who lives at home and has a very close relationship to the doting Molly. In fact as John finds out a little too close as he suspects Cyrus is manipulating both him and Molly to split them up.
So to put it simply you wouldn't be surprised if you saw the name Judd Apatow somewhere in the credits of "Cyrus" because it has that feel about it. Apatow's name is nowhere to be seen although it is a surprise when you see brothers Ridley and Tony Scott as executive producers. Anyway as such the storyline has that mainstream comedy feel, the divorced man finding love but then finding himself up against a manipulative grown up son who ends up playing on his mum's affections to try and get them to split. It even has moments of typical mainstream comedy, the movie opens with Jamie walking in on John masturbating and there are further sexual references as well as a fight.
But here is the difference between "Cyrus" and its mainstream counterparts; everything is slightly raw almost off the beat if you like. So you will be watching a scene and suddenly the camera jolts in, focussing sharply as if the scene was unrehearsed and half way through the camera man decided he want to be a bit closer. The dialogue has that feel of being adlibbed with the actors saying what they feel rather than going with a script, leading to moments of silence where say Cyrus is just staring at John working out what to say. That may sound like it is poor but it makes it more interesting because it makes it feel real, when Cyrus stares at John you sense that Jonah Hill is emoting anger towards the man who is threatening to ruin the good thing he has going on. It also means some of the humour is funnier than in a mainstream comedy because the responses are also more natural even haphazard.
What is interesting about this is that "Cyrus" has actors playing familiar sorts of characters that we will have seen in mainstream comedies. There is something a bit immature about John C. Reilly as John, when he blurts stuff out you think he hasn't grown up and at the same time Jonah Hill has this spoilt kid thing going on. Throw in Catherine Keener as Jamie and Marisa Tomei giving us sexy and nice as Molly and they are all typical characters. But then because it feels like the actors are acting in the scene, finding the right words for themselves it makes it feel very different to what they would do in another comedy.
What this all boils down to is that "Cyrus" is a pleasant surprise and in many ways it is a mainstream comedy but made by indie directors who allow the actors to voice their own characters and are not after some highly choreographed and scripted comedy but something more real. It makes it as funny as a mainstream comedy but also different and a lot more interesting as real characters develop.