'Cyrus' isn't like the normal, run-of-the-mill R-rated comedies out there. It doesn't have a formula, and the Duplass Brother's direction gives it that ultra-real-life feeling which has become their signature. It's rough around the edges, but it comes together as a sweet, dramedy about a guy who thinks he's a loser, a beautiful woman searching for love, and the neurotic son who wants his mother all to himself.
John (John C. Reilly) is a loser. He knows it and the whole world seems to think it. He's a nice guy, he really is, but he still hasn't gotten over his divorce seven years earlier. In the first few minutes, John's ex-wife (Katherine Keener) catches John masturbating with his tighty-whiteys down around his knees. If that wasn't bad enough, she's come to give him the horrible news that she's getting remarried. Such is his life.
John attends a party thrown by his ex-wife and her fiancée. That's where he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei). Tomei is just so fun to watch. One of the real Hollywood beauties, and she seems to just get better looking as she ages. In most movies like this, where a stunningly gorgeous girl meets a big slobbering oaf of a man, everything seems flat-out unreal. The situations aren't believable. You sit there thinking, "Her? With him? Pssssh! Right," but Tomei is so sweet, charming, and innocent that right away their relationship feels believable. Once we learn of the challenges she's trying to work through in her life, her liking John becomes even more understandable.
Speaking of challenges, Molly has a son. His name is Cyrus (Jonah Hill) and he's a nutcase. He doesn't show it though. He's methodical, dastardly, and underhanded. He's like an evil super villain who sits in his room and concocts diabolical plans to thwart his mother's romances. See, he's a little jealous of John. We never really know why Cyrus is the way he is, all we know is that he is, and he's good at it.
The first time John visits Molly's home he sees a picture of her breastfeeding a child who has to be around eight or nine years old. That's when we know something's amiss. There's a weird Oedipus complex going on here, and Jonah Hill plays it perfectly. Finally, a role for Hill where he isn't just asked to be the funny fat guy. He shows real emotion here. He shows that he has the acting chops to not only carry comedic scenes, but also to put it all out there when the script calls for it. If you find that you can't stand Hill's normal shtick, then this may be the movie that will change your mind about him.
The geniuses behind the movie are the Duplass Brothers (Jay and Mark) who never come right out and say what's going on. They build up to it. They let the characters and their dialogue tell the story, rather than running through a series of formulaic scenes. Their dialogue is genuine and sincere, and you can see that they let the actors improvise throughout numerous scenes. Letting them act how real people would act in those situations. That, combined with the talent in front of the camera, makes 'Cyrus' a refreshing film all around.
'Cyrus' has a textbook indie look to it. The image is rough and sometimes not all that pretty to look at (except when Marisa Tomei is on screen). 'Cyrus' receives an AVC encode here. The visuals are never really stunning, overall they round out to being just about average.
Colors are never bright and bold, they appear quite muted at times. Skintones look washed out during many of the scenes. Blacks constantly have a flat, matte finish to them that creates crushing shadows and hardly provides depth to the image. The movie is full of soft photography, and when I first saw this at Sundance I remember it looking the same way. So, let's not fault the transfer, but the source definitely is lacking the high definition detail that makes Blu-ray pop off the TV screen. Some facial detail is noticeable, but even during extreme close-ups pores and such are not entirely clear and concise.
Overall, I would say that it is an accurate representation of what the movie is meant to look like, but it's just not something that will cause your eyes to shout for joy when they see it.
The audio is pretty meager as well. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix seems to have a few problems.
First off, there are a few scenes that seem to have very odd recordings. For instance, when John's ex-wife comes to visit and sits down to tell him the news of her impending marriage, her voice sounds oddly muffled and his sounds tinny. During the fight near the end, when Molly and John are yelling at each other, I detected a faint hint of crackling each time a character yelled. There are times, like when Cyrus comes home distraught, and hugs his mother, that he whispers into her ear and it's almost inaudible. I remember being able to hear those lines clearly in the theater, but here I had to skip backward turn up the volume and listen again. LFE is light, but when engaged it works well. The bass during John's dance party, and Cyrus' music demonstration is deep and adds to the movie's humor. The rear speakers don't have much to do. They pipe up during the party at the beginning, but other than that they stay pretty silent for the rest of the movie.
I wasn't all that impressed by this audio presentation, and the small technical problems take it down another notch.
'Cyrus' may feel like it doesn't reach a complete catharsis at the end, but what relationships due? They always leave us wanting more (if they were good ones) and no matter how long we live and love someone, nothing is ever tied up into a perfect conclusion. Maybe that's why I like 'Cyrus' so much, yes it's funny, the actors are fantastic, the directing is top-notch, but above all else it just feels real. This one is worth a look, even with the lackluster video and audio scores.