It's Like A Crippled Tree Reaching For Heaven: Cyrus (2010)

When I engage with independent films that use handheld camera work and mumble dialogue, I become weary.  Usually, it is a sign of a mumblecorp film that will either deliver something brilliantly profound, as is the case with Tiny Furniture, or miss the mark completely and come off as distantly pretentious, as is the case with Dance Party, U.S.A.  Cyrus, while possessing far more notable actors than either of the previously mentioned films provides an air of mumblecorp that makes seeing Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei seem humanly close.  It is a film about interactions done so minimally and believably that it is hard not to mistake the work for something of a documentary.  Directors and writers Mark and Jay Duplass provide a heartfelt piece of film that is clearly made with some distant memory in mind, suggesting that those viewing are being allowed a glimpse into a persons dearest thoughts, without effectively invading the narrative with judgment.  Cyrus is so well scripted, filmed and directed that you are lost when it ends, because as a viewer you attach yourself to its characters and follow them through their spells of failure and success, as one man learns to grow up while another learns to be young.

Cyrus follows John, played with clear ease by John C. Reilly, as he deals with the rather shitty state of his life.  John is a professional film editor, whose best friend is his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener) and latches on to his comfort with her despite the clear disdain of Jamie's new fiance Tim (Matt Walsh).  As a gesture of both kindness and desperation, Tim and Jamie force John to tag along to a party with the hopes that he will meet someone new there and his irregular attachment with Jamie will end.  It appears as though the part will be as bust as John quickly becomes intoxicated off Red Bull and Vodka and finds himself peeing in the bushes outside the party.  It is at this point that he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei) a sultry woman who displays clear interest in John.  After a night of intimacy, John is infatuated with Molly, but despite her clear interest in him, she is incredibly evasive.  Desiring to make things work with Molly, John follows her home one evening only to pass out across the street.  When he awakes, it is the morning and he approaches the house with the hopes of talking to her.  Instead, John is approached by Cyrus (Jonah Hill) the unusually old son of Molly.  Cyrus is incredibly welcoming to John and shares his house and music with John and things seem to be going well until Molly returns and is incredibly distraught to discover John waiting.  The relationship between Cyrus and Molly becomes awkward quite quickly as it is apparent that there is an unhealthy attachment between the mother and son.  John attempts to play it cool to the entire situation, but Cyrus plots to separate him from his mother and for most of the remaining narrative, he is successful at causing the two to end their relationship, only after John has attacked Cyrus and ruined his former wife's wedding.  However, in a moment of recognition to his own mother's sadness, Cyrus returns to apologize to John and the two end their disputes.  Cyrus removes himself as a divisive force and John and Molly finally engage in their clearly promising future.

I find one of the best features of the mumblecorp genre to be its honest approach to unusual narratives.  Having read my fair share of commentaries on suppressed narratives, it is great to see a film like Cyrus.  While it is clearly concerned with only well to do white individuals they are nonetheless a divergent narrative.  Cyrus is a young man with obvious mental problems that are overlooked by current psychiatric means.  John is a divorced male who is struggling to approach life, despite being clearly out of the loop.  He has an ex-wife that he is still close with, which posits a rather unusual and unconventional commentary on the status of marriage, and while it is clear that Tim is uncomfortable with their interactions, he realizes it would be selfish and oppressive to ask them to cease.  It is seemingly irrelevant and simply a means to add characters to the plot, but it is likely that the directors realized their social statement upon release.  The film also portrays a single mother in an unusual light.  Molly is clearly a woman struggling with little to no success to deal with her trouble son.  While it is obvious that she takes her duty very seriously and champions her cause quite respectably the film makes not intentions to glorify her.  In fact, the film approaches Molly in a very critical manner making it quite clear that she is oblivious to many of the events occurring in her own life.  In a sense, Cyrus is a film that concerns itself with highlighting unusual situations and drawing viewers into accepting that such possibilities occur, however, it is careful not to over idolize the quirky situation and instead approaches it quite honestly and with much criticism, hearkening back to my previous statement of the film existing as more of a documentary than actual narrative piece.  A rare outcome in contemporary filmmaking.

Cyrus is a solid film that is well worth viewing.  However, unless you are particularly keen on independent cinema it is a rental only.

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