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Cyrus DVD Review

Cyrus (2010) movie poster Cyrus

Theatrical Release: June 18, 2010 / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: R

Writers/Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass / Songs List

Cast: John C. Reilly (John), Jonah Hill (Cyrus), Marisa Tomei (Molly), Catherine Keener (Jamie), Matt Walsh (Tim), Diane Mizota (Thermostat Girl), Kathy Ann Wittes (Ashley), Katie Aselton (Pretty Girl), Jamie Donnelly (Pastor), Tim Guinee (Roger), Charlie Brewer (Stranger at Reception), Steve Zissis (Rusty)

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Young people might be confused by Cyrus. First of all, it's got nothing to do with Miley or her onscreen/offscreen father Billy Ray. Secondly, they might wonder why the goofy-looking guys they know from racy comedies like Step Brothers,
Superbad, Knocked Up, and Walk Hard are in what appears to be an art house movie. While those appearances are not deceiving, the question can only apply to young Jonah Hill, not John C. Reilly, who has a rich history in independent film widely predating his high-profile recent comedy work.

The young needn't worry too much, because Cyrus probably isn't for them. This mature comedy-drama is the third and by far biggest feature from Jay and Mark Duplass, the brothers who were are at the forefront of the mumblecore film movement. That is a movement that has been easy to miss and I don't expect you to know the co-writers/directors' The Puffy Chair (2006) and Baghead (2008). I certainly don't. But having attracted respected actors and secured a nationwide release in 25 times as many theaters, the Duplasses are becoming harder not to notice. Cyrus was one of the summer's most acclaimed films and it performed as strongly at the box office as nearly anything in limited release this year.

"Cyrus" stars John C. Reilly as John, a man who thinks he's finally found something good after seven years of divorced doldrums. Cyrus (Jonah Hill) seriously shares one of his soundscapes with John.

Cyrus tells the story of John (Reilly), a friendly but somewhat socially awkward man who was divorced ("got left") seven years ago and is still not back on his feet. The movie opens with John's ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener) revealing that she is getting remarried and trying to get John to join her and her fiancι (Matt Walsh) at a party. Reluctantly attending, John finds the gathering uncomfortable until a woman named Molly (Marisa Tomei) catches him peeing in the bushes. That doesn't creep her out, nor does the impassioned case she has overheard him making to an unmoved guest. A divorcιe herself, Molly goes home with John. The two hit it off and decide to meet up again the following night.

When she has to sneak out in the middle of the night, he decides to follow her home to figure out her secret (another thing she's awfully forgiving of). She's not married and not a spy, but she does have a coddled 21-year-old son living at home to whom she is close, quite possibly to an unhealthy degree. The gargantuan Cyrus (Hill) seems pleasant enough, if a little odd, as he invites snoopy John inside and shares one of the "soundscapes" he has been working on. Six years since getting his GED, Cyrus has musical ambitions he seems unlikely to realize in his home setup of computer and seven synthesizers.

While John and Molly continue to bond, Cyrus begins to emerge as a secret threat to their relationship. He pulls each of them aside separately to confide in them a conflicting story in an effort to cool off the quickly flourishing romance. This is but one trick in his arsenal; others include dubious "night terrors" and a spontaneous plan to move in with some musicians he found on Craigslist. Though Molly remains oblivious and Jamie is convinced John is just being paranoid, the tension between the overgrown son and his mom's decent film editor suitor is very real and becoming toxic.

"My Cousin Vinny" Oscar winner Marisa Tomei plays Molly, the divorced mother who wants her son and new man to accept one another. Even at a urinal, John (John C. Reilly) isn't safe from getting caught in the act, as Cyrus confronts him in the bathroom at his ex-wife's wedding.

The Duplass Brothers bring a definite personal style to this personality-driven film. It is framed by emotion and shot by unsteady, ever-mobile handheld camera with frequent tiny zooms. Dialogue is repeatedly extracted and laid over shots of characters clearly not talking, as if to evoke inner monologue. The pacing is beyond methodical, lingering on the minutiae that factor into real-life interaction. The biggest overriding plot point may involve John's missing shoes, a mystery he suspects that the duplicitous Cyrus may be behind.

While the narrow tone and deliberately offbeat methods are sure to elicit derision from those comfortable with more standard cinematic conventions, they also make Cyrus stand out as an intimate and heartfelt piece of filmmaking. It's a savory alternative to most things that could be slapped with both "romance" and "comedy" labels.
The story has overtones of Rushmore, although the intergenerational rivalry doesn't have a common goal, because Cyrus (barely) recognizes that his "best friend" (who he too calls "Molly") needs someone to love her in a way that he can't. While the Duplasses do engage in a minimalism that adds weight to raised eyebrows and precise wording, they strive for a kind of unembellished reality where Wes Anderson gets imaginative and whimsical.

The film is often funny and quite full of charm, but it is also able to make you cringe and empathize with aspects. John is kind of a lonely loser, Cyrus has some serious dependency issues, and even Molly, who seems to have the grace and patience of a saint, deserves blame for her parenting. Cyrus makes and acknowledges these points without belaboring them, rendering it a character study that invites viewer participation and introspection. That earns it some credit, but it is ultimately the sharp writing and high entertainment value that make this endearing and worth seeing.

Cyrus DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: December 14, 2010
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($39.99 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Cyrus looks great in the DVD's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Having seen the film in theaters, its restless photography and atypical close-ups do feel much better suited to the small screen, and Fox's disc presents them with no worries whatsoever. Sharpness, contrast, and colors are excellent, even on the film's understandably modest $7 million budget. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is not very aggressive, but the main course (dialogue) reaches our ears crisply and evenly. Music is also put to some use throughout and well. The mix will elude notice from anyone who's not christening a new surround setup here, but it leaves nothing to be desired.

Jay and Mark Duplass, the brothers who wrote and directed the film, hold a pose in their first deleted scene introduction. A Molly cow and a John lion get cozy in John's cut puppet show. A smiling John C. Reilly and a discomforting rearview John A. Hill share the screen on the DVD's main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Cyrus is unusually light on bonus features. The main extra is a pair of deleted scenes, which
at least are truly cut, contained sequences. The first (2:00) is an underwhelming on-the-nose puppet show John has filmed for Molly dramatizing their relationship. The second (6:00) adds five speaking parts to the film's handful by showing us Cyrus' traumatic night at his new place, which hosts a mild party. Both scenes can be viewed preceded by a thoughtful, amusing introduction by the Brothers Duplass (1:30, 1:25).

The only other inclusion is the amusing theatrical trailer for Cyrus (2:20).

A "Sneak Peek" menu holds trailers for The Joneses, Knight and Day, and Never Let Me Go.

At disc insertion, promos play for Fox digital copies, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Conviction, and Mark Duplass' "The League": Season One.

The DVD's simple main menu plays a scored montage of clips, filling and occasionally dividing the screen. Submenus are static and silent.

Coming between John (John C. Reilly) and Molly (Marisa Tomei), Cyrus (Jonah Hill) wonders if he shouldn't move back home.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Cyrus is a fresh, funny character study that delights on the strengths of the small cast and the fine writing and directing of the Duplass Brothers. This offbeat indie comedy will certainly not to be everyone's liking, but its sense of humor isn't really all that different from those of the hit comedies of its male leads. Anyone open-minded should find something to appreciate or laugh about here.

Fox's DVD offers a first-rate feature presentation but surprisingly little in the way of bonus features. At least the provided extra material does add value. The movie is worth a look.

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Related Reviews:
New: The Other Guys (The Unrated Other Edition) • Going the Distance • Micmacs • Knight and Day • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
John C. Reilly: Step Brothers • Chicago (The Razzle-Dazzle Edition) • The Thin Red Line (Criterion Collection) • Dark Water | Marisa Tomei: Wild Hogs
Jonah Hill: Superbad • Strange Wilderness • Knocked Up • Funny People • Evan Almighty • Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Catherine Keener: Please Give • The Soloist • Where the Wild Things Are • Into the Wild • Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Greenberg • The League: The Complete Season One • Mama's Boy • The Kids Are All Right • Margot at the Wedding • Dan in Real Life

Cyrus Songs List (in order of use): GFM - "Don-Ky", KeyNoc - "I'm Blue", Princeton - "Calypso Gold", Cat Scientist - "Precipice", Miss TK & The Revenge - "Nano U Didn't", Aloha - "Passengers", The Longo Brothers - "NYC Delight", John C. Reilly and The Human League - "Don't You Want Me", Fol Chen - "Cable TV", Still Flyin' - "The Hott Chord is Struck", Blind Pilot - "I Buried a Bone", Empire of the Sun - "Walking on a Dream", Charlie Wadhams - "My Love"

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Reviewed December 18, 2010.



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