Needy Men 

A middle-aged knockout juggles son and suitor in Cyrus.

At the beginning of Mark and Jay Duplass' new film Cyrus, homely, single John (John C. Reilly) is thunderstruck by the odd look he gets from Molly (Marisa Tomei) at a party. He's understandably amazed that this middle-aged knockout is paying attention to him. But moviegoers will also detect a different note in Molly's expression that John is slow to recognize. Is it tenderness? Amusement? Pity?

Later, when John is introduced to Molly's 21-year old son (Jonah Hill), the extra ingredient in Molly's gaze becomes clear. She's looking at both of these boys with a loving but predominantly maternal eye. And therein lies the chief conflict in this awkward comic psychodrama, which is both rewarding and flawed in different, better ways than most films in theaters.

As Cyrus, Hill gives his best performance — which, given his previous work, might sound like faint praise. But Hill's girth, intelligence, anger, and vulnerability all contribute to the richest characterization he's likely to get. His initial opacity and unblinking calm mark him as immediately untrustworthy, and he seldom enters a scene; he's just suddenly there, like Michael Myers in Halloween. John soon discovers that Cyrus' barbed politeness, calculated rudeness, and feigned psychological ailments are all part of an impressive arsenal of manipulative tricks.

But John is no innocent: His battle with Cyrus for Molly's affections is echoed in John's interactions with his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener). Seven years after their divorce, John is still calling her in the middle of the night to express his bewilderment at Cyrus' conniving ways, much to the irritation of her fiancé Tim (Matt Walsh). John and Cyrus are thus two overly mothered boys who recall Tyler Durden's Fight Club remarks about a generation of weak men who have been raised primarily by women. It's a nice joke that when these characters finally do come to blows, they flail like actresses in a soap-opera catfight.

Unfortunately, Cyrus' black-comic premise is frequently undermined by its ugly visual scheme. Although this is their third film, the Duplass brothers still have a shoddy command of light, shadow, and space. They rely too much on dim lighting, hand-held camera work, and an obvious, sudden zoom that overemphasizes details in several scenes. And watching Hill and Reilly battle for Tomei's affections is a lot like watching a fight between two Dick Tracy villains. It's unthinkable that any major studio would dare to make a film with two equally unattractive female leads.

In their rhythm and pacing, the film's best scenes avoid this low-fi indie ugliness and find some deeper, more difficult emotional moments. In one scene, Molly and Cyrus talk about some of the uncomfortable aspects of their relationship using the logy, slow speech patterns of two people emerging from comas. But this sensitive, hard-earned moment doesn't linger long enough. For all its formal slovenliness, the film's sudden, tidy resolution feels like a cheat. The literal shoulder-shrug of an ending wraps up an otherwise engaging story too neatly and quickly.


Opening Friday, July 9th

Ridgeway Four

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.

Rated R · 92 min. · 2010
Official Site:
Director: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Writer: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Producer: Michael Costigan
Cast: Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Jonah Hill, John C. Reilly, Katie Aselton, Matt Walsh, Tim Guinee, Jamie Donnelly, Kellan Rhude and Steve Zissis


Now Playing

Cyrus is not showing in any theaters in the area.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • Wildlife

      Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal are a couple in crisis in Paul Dano’s directorial debut.
    • The Old Man And The Gun

      Robert Redford retires at the top of his game
    • Bohemian Rhapsody

      The Glossy Biopic Can’t Live Up To Freddy Mercury’s Legend


Tiger Blue

Tigers 28, SMU 18

Beyond the Arc

Grizzlies Defeat Kings 112-104

Hungry Memphis

Zopita's on the Square to open Nov. 19

We Saw You

Indie Film Fest, Grilled Cheese Fest, Adapt-A-Door and more!

Hungry Memphis

Little Italy Opening Downtown

News Blog

Seven Vie for Vacant District 1 Council Seat

News Blog

Group of White Women Test Mall’s No Hoodie Policy

Hungry Memphis

The Nine Now Open

Fly On The Wall Blog

What’s Kids in the Hall Co-Founder Kevin McDonald Doing in Memphis?

Hungry Memphis

Gordon Ramsay's in Memphis to Save a Restaurant!


More by Addison Engelking

Readers also liked…

  • Fifty Shades Freed

    Feature length commercial for luxury goods or chilling glimpse into the post-human future?
    • Feb 16, 2018
  • Death Grip

    Memphis filmmaker Sam Bahre talks about his 11-year struggle to create I Filmed Your Death.
    • Apr 19, 2018
  • The Lost City of Z

    A mesmerizing story of obsession in the Amazon jungle
    • May 1, 2017
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation