There is a reason why it is best to shop around when considering movie reviews. A great number of run-of-the-mill movie lovers head over to review aggregators like www.rottentomatoes.com and www.metacritic.com, as do I, and from time to time I seek out the sole critic I have been following long before I started writing my own reviews. All that to say if you’re looking for a kind word or two about Cyrus, the sloppily written poorly realized feature from the Duplass brothers (who are essentially the prime ingredients in the gorilla film movement known as mumblecore) you should check elsewhere.
There is little redeeming about this film. Not even Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler, Before the Devil Knows You’re Deadwarms the story in the least, often doe-eyed and uncertain, ad-libbing but ultimately succumbing to uninteresting as is often the territory of mumblecore cinema. The problem with allowing your actors to float through their scenes unhindered, unadjusted, is that things begin to wonder pretty quickly and the already loose story, that of a mother living with her grown son and her new boyfriend who play a game of war for her affection, falls to the wayside only to be resolved like an episode of Knots Landing after 91 minutes. In this case we’re fortunate that Cyrus is a one-act play we’ll never have to watch again; ever. The ending is pedestrian and lazy and how we arrive there is no less insulting than the fact we’ve just invested another hour and a half of our life on a movie that we’ll forget sooner than later. To berate this film would suggest passion which would hint at the least bit of emotional connection to the characters and story but nothing could be further from the truth. I write angrily as a means of justifying the buck fifty I spent to rent this film and apparently, to challenge the 80% fresh rating the rottentomatoes folks gave it. At least the metacritics gave it a 74, not that their number is any closer to a meaningful assessment of this mess.
Roger Ebert calls the film a “comedy of awkwardness, private thoughts, passive aggression and veiled hostility” which while accurate contains entirely too much detail, leaving hardly anything left for the audience to decipher, though gleaming the surface will reveal there is nothing of substance beneath. You know a review is going south when it begins with a plot point analysis and while this does not mean all reviews of this nature are particularly bad per se, it usually means that beyond plot there isn’t much else worth discussing.
John C. Reilly (Boogie Nights, The Hours) and Jonah Hill are equally lost in their roles, the former in desperate need of direction less he lose all sense that he’s supposed to be acting, and the latter perfectly brilliant under the direction and guidance of Greg Mottola with a script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad) but less interesting in say Judd Apatows’ Funny People. Catherine Keener (Please Give, Friends With Money) makes an appearance as the ex-wife to Reilly’s character but the part is little more than a plot device and hardly worthy of her otherwise interesting roles in other people’s movies. It is frankly impossible to sit back and watch the awkwardness without first feeling awkward yourself, perplexed even like you’re on the outside of a good joke or the third person on a date where the other two people are clearly not into your being there. Unlike others, I didn’t enjoy the social ineptitude or embarrassing situational comedy because it lost all momentum after fifteen minutes. Perhaps this story would have worked on SNL as a four-minute skit but not on the big screen; not even on the little screen.
Mumblecore, for those who have been spared from the experience, is an American film movement, a term actually that describes ultra-low-to-no budget productions that are primarily improvised using non-professional actors and digital video cameras. Cinematography, directing, and production design are words that should never be used when describing films of this genre. Think of the movement as an American art form similar to the Big Mac, the Slurpee and drive-thru’s – too much is, well, too much.