Dir: Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass
Wow, that didn’t start as it meant to go on!
There’s a horrible feeling when you start watching a film, thinking you might quite enjoy it, but then it opens and starts up terribly, either rubbish or really unpleasantly and you feel like you’ve made a mistake. That’s exactly how this was. The opening scene made me worry that it was about to be some bawdy gross-out comedy, and that was not what I was hoping for. Thank goodness I gave it a chance to improve.
‘Cyrus’ shows John (John C. Riley), a man who has been divorced for 7 years but hasn’t moved on, so when he’s invited by his ex-wife to a party so that he can meet people (especially women) he is reluctant to go. However, he meets the perfect woman (Marissa Tomei), they hit it off immediately, and rather than being just a one-night stand, it blossoms into a lovely romance. Until he meets her 21 year-old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill).
It’s no secret that children often have a hard time when their parents start dating new people, but it’s not so often considered how that might be with an adult child. Jonah Hill has a bit of a ‘baby-faced’ look, while also at the time being a large fully grown man. This outer incongruity fits perfectly as the character’s personality also reflects an uneasy mix of child and adult. To illustrate, at one point Cyrus sits John down for a mature talk about how things are going with his mother, over a plate of PB & J sandwiches, complete with the crusts cut off. The story then develops, with the two men at odds with one another, and secretly fighting.
There’s a lot more to it that just that conflict. There’s also a hint at John paralleling Cyrus in his inability to move on from his ex-wife. They work together, he goes to her for advice, she seems to still have a key to his house. It’s never explicitly said, but nicely alluded to.
Another fascinating feature was the camerawork. If I remember my studies correctly, it’s known as ‘deliberate wobbly scope’. All the camerawork is clearly handheld, and with lots of movement and zoom adjustment, that gives it quite a sense of reportage or even documentary film-making, in a way distancing it from feeling like a scripted comedy and more like we’re watching a real situation developing. It’s clear that the camera style was completely deliberate as Jay Duplass was one of the camera operators. The film was also produced by the Scott brothers, Ridley (Blade Runner, Alien, Prometheus) and the late Tony (Top Gun). I’m not sure quite how that’s had an influence on it, though maybe they were the ones who helped steer it away from the rocky start and into the superbly enjoyable film that it later becomes.
Click on the poster above for the trailer.