Chosen Film: “Cyrus” at SXSW

If you’re not familiar with Sundance regulars Jay and Mark Duplass, you will be once Cyrus drops later this year. After multiple shorts, these indie golden boys (two of the originators of the “mumblecore” genre) grabbed real star power for their first studio feature, with John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei as an uncomfortably Oedipal love triangle. If the crowds at SXSW are any indication – and they are, check your old Oscar ballots – Cyrus will end up a huge romantic comedy hit, which will be amazing since so much of the movie is so damn creepy.

Puffy, sweaty and out of shape mess Reilly has, surprisingly, been creeping toward leading-man territory for years, but Cyrus is the first film he’s carrying on his own. Playing John, a divorced film editor whose only friend is his soon-to-be-remarried ex-wife, his rubbery face and incredible comedic timing squeeze laughs out of extreme humiliation. Things start looking up for the pathetic schlub when Tomei, a too-gorgeous-to-be-with-a-loser-like-that leading lady, enters, but there’s one problem: her twenty-one year old son, Cyrus. Hill is cast, almost too perfectly, as a mewling, possessive man-baby, and the step-father/son tensions provide more laughs than anyone should expect from mainstream stars, but that’s what you get when the second fiddles – the guys who made it on talent rather than looks – get a chance to play lead.

There are heartfelt scenes, sure, but that’s not really this film’s charm. If anything, these moments of realization are the weakest points. It’s the awkward bits that kill, e.g., the look on Reilly’s face as son Cyrus casually walks into the bathroom while his mother is showering. (I call it the “Is this really happening?” expression.) Just as David Gordon Green rode The Pineapple Express into the mainstream, Jay and Mark Duplass will cross over with Cyrus. Ed Helms and Jason Segel have already signed on for their next flick. If it’s as funny as this one, all Hollywood’s back-up guys, wacky neighbors and wingmen will soon be begging the Duplasses for a chance to fly solo.


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What do you think?

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