John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill butt heads in Cyrus, the amusingly simple drama-comedy that pits the actors against one another for the sole attention of a single woman. And who wouldn’t fight for Marisa Tomei? The movie, from writing/directing combo Jay and Mark Duplass, is a surprisingly charming and wickedly seductive battle of minds and determination.
In Cyrus, Reilly plays John, a depressed, lonely man who has just learned his ex-wife and friend (Catherine Keener) is getting remarried. At a party, he meets the out-of-his-league Molly (Tomei), who immediately takes a liking to him. Their relationship looks like it’s off to the races… until John meets Cyrus (Hill), Molly’s 22-year old live-in son. Cyrus seems accepting of John and his relationship with his mother, but John quickly realizes that every word and action the young man says and does is a passive aggressive attempt to drive him away.
Cyrus won’t appeal to everyone, but for those who savor nuance and relish in moments of suppressed, simmering emotion, it is a match made in heaven. The movie isn’t a comedy with one liners or jokes that stand on their own; its humor relies completely on the acting talent involved.
Reilly, one of my favorite all time actors, delivers his best performance since Chicago. Every glance, blink, smirk and frown are pitch perfect. Countering him at every turn is Hill, who manages to twist the same character he’s known for into something new and deliciously mischievous.
It’s hard to put into words what makes Cyrus so good. The screenplay is subtle yet priceless, the story deeply engaging. The slow boil tension between Reilly and Hill is extremely satisfying.
The movie isn’t without its flaws, however. The resolution comes about surprisingly quickly, when the tension boils over, the mess is momentary, even fleeting. At only 90 minutes, Cyrus would have benefited from another 15 minutes of psychological warfare. It also wraps up too easily.
Cyrus is an entertaining and superbly acted comedy that unfortunately falters in the final few minutes. Still, recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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