Cyrus markets itself as a comedy, but it is often anything but. Cyrus is a movie based on poignancy, about relationships, and while it can be fun, it can also be sad, tender, bitter, hopeful, and even in its silliest moments, mature.
Our title character is not our main character, but he is the most memorable. Cyrus (Jonah Hill) is as hindered in society as Ignatius J. Reilly, but somehow more realistic. Cyrus is a malignant sore on his mother’s hip, a tumor filled with lies, behavioral issues, and an offbeat sense of humor. He is also a pain in the main story arc’s ass, but without him, the story would be one that is boy meets girl, has drunken sex, soon becomes inseparable, and then tries to make it work. Because Cyrus is implemented gracefully, we have something a little more unique.
John (John C. Reilly) is a nice guy, a really goofy, likeable man who never got over his ex-wife Jamie, played by Catherine Keener. In the opening scenes, we see him working toward the courage to be close to someone else, but he is employed with Jamie, and this is hard. At a party, John conveniently meets Molly (Marisa Tomei), who in all her years has never found a steady lover (you can see this in her generally distressed appearance and continually furrowed brow). The two strike up the kind of relationship that is all whirlwinds and furious passion, a relationship where it doesn’t seem absurd or creepy for John to follow Molly to her home, engaging himself in her life and the life of her son.
Often relationships such as these end disastrously, and after John meets Cyrus, who is both devious and determined to break the couple up, this ending perhaps would not have been unthinkable. But John is infatuated with Molly, and he is not willing to give up easily, even if it means breaking the barriers of new coupledom and taking the bait against Cyrus’ absurd ethics in order to fight back.
Through the ups and downs of its narrative, the Duplass Brothers use a unique device to float scenes together. I don’t know if the brothers have implemented this same device in their previous films, but it works to add depth to this screenplay. The device is just this: sometimes dialogue will continue as the pictures on the screen change, capably communicating two ideas at once. The first is the idea eschewed by the dialogue and the second is the emotion initiated by the shots. In this way we are capable of seeing more complicated versions of our characters, their inner perspectives, thoughts, and emotions, rather than what just plays out in their faces and voices. This could be distraction, but works in the interest of this film. It’s another way Cyrus plays to the unexpected.
The story in Cyrus is not more upsetting than The Break-Up and not easier than Up in the Air. Like those two movies, it is a story about complex relationships melding to create moments that are candid, even if they aren’t heartwarming. Viewers who were shocked that Cyrus wasn’t the laugh-out-loud, boisterous Jonah Hall vehicle they had presumed, shouldn’t have been. Jonah Hill is acting at an entirely different level, and is better for it. As usual, John C. Reilly is a fine actor, and he is among his finest characters here. Cyrus is a story of learning when to engage, when it’s okay to quit, and realizing sometimes those two ideas have fermented into one thing. Sometimes in our finest moments, when we are brutally, painfully honest, we are not at our most likeable. We are at our most watchable.
When the disc turns on, there is a preview for the digital copy, but my screener copy didn’t include one. I looked into special features, and the Blu-Ray copy isn’t expected to have a digital disc at all. This seemed supremely weird. The disc itself is equipped with the “newest in Blu-Ray technology,” which meant I had to update my player twice before I could get it to play. But there are some distinctively stylized extras that come with the disc. When you hit the pause button, there is an inset picture that pops up, showing you the screenshot from the beginning of the scene. Scenes can be searched by nicely sized pictures rather than titles. There is also a feature that allows you to “bookmark” your spot, meaning if you watch and have to pause, you can shut the disc down and return to it at a later point. Finally, each of the extras are pop-up sections on the main menu, so you don’t have to traverse into the vortex of the disc to get to everything, making for a very neat layout.
There are a couple of deleted scenes featured, the most memorable being a puppet show that John puts on for Molly. Each of the deleted scenes is accompanied with an introduction. This is an appealing way to include deleted scenes, because then audiences can understand where a scene is supposed to go and why.
The disc can also be streamed in BD Live. This features the trailer for Cyrus, other trailers from 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight, as well as a Q&A segment that can either be streamed or downloaded. This short feature talks about Cyrus’ release at SXSW in Austin in 2010 and gives an idea of the hopes riding on the Duplass Brothers’ shoulders. It is also featured in the extra’s section under a different title -- the Q&A segment in the BD Live is a completely different segment than the Q&A segment featured in the extras section of the disc. This Q&A is longer and more fulfilling, and explains the Brothers’ writing and filming process. They filmed the segment with their children, but filming the Q&A with the kids does more for the aww factor than getting a point across. It’s a shame their gimmick is distracting from otherwise valid points.
Other features include a music mash-up with Reilly and Hill. They’re just dicking around, but it’s way better than the usual blooper reel. There are also some Fox Movie Channel Presentations, which are interviews with Reilly and Hill about the dynamics and presentation of each of their characters. All in all a worthwhile watch.
Reviewed By: Jessica Grabert