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An Overly Long Review of ‘Cyrus’

Cyrus is the new film that stars John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei.

It’s directed by brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, so-called “indie” filmmakers who directed 2005’s The Puffy Chair, an arthouse favorite for reasons I can’t understand (beyond “at least it’s not Hollywood”).

I saw The Puffy Chair when it came out. It was boring. If you think a Hollywood movie that is based on the usual 9 plot points (or whatever) is boring (and I do), then you ought to think a movie with zero plot points is just as boring (and I did). But, not if you’re a movie critic, apparently. The Puffy Chair got plenty of raves. I can understand that — not from a moviegoer’s perspective, but from a movie reviewer’s perspective. Those poor saps see 30+ movies a week, 29+ of them being pretty much the same. I understand how they get suckered into thinking that different is the same as good.

But The Puffy Chair wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good. If I want to see “realistic” dialog, I’ll stay home. Who needs the movies? I can ramble and mutter and go nowhere all on my own!

But on to Cyrus, which has been getting very good reviews. I like John C. Reilly, and he deserves all the accolades and money the movie industry can dole out. I liked him even before he was Dr. Steve Brule (“for your health!”) on Adult Swim’s Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job. And he is terrific in Cyrus.

Jonah Hill is terrific in Cyrus. Marisa Tomei is terrific in Cyrus — and if you could believe she was Mickey Rourke‘s love interest in The Wrestler, you won’t have a problem believing she’s John C. Reilly’s love interest in this movie.

This is one of those movies where the trailer gives you a rough idea of the plot — a lonely-hearts kind of nerd hooks up with a wonderful woman, but she has a slightly-crazy grown son who doesn’t like the idea. Let the comedic adventures begin!

Of course, the trailer promotes the comedic adventures as the core of the film, and that’s not strictly the case. You can easily imagine the studio executives watching this movie and wondering how the hell they could promote it. Or, perhaps more accurately, you can imagine the studio executives asking their assistants about this movie, and then wondering how the hell they could promote it.

And now it’s *spoiler alert* time, not that it should matter to anyone.

John C. Reilly is a divorced loser. His ex-wife (indie queen Catherine Keener) sets him up to go to a party. There he meets Marisa Tomei. It’s not as unbelievable as it may seem that these two hook up. Then it turns out Tomei has a grown son living with her (Jonah Hill).

The new suitor and the grown son don’t get along. They fight a little, they undermine each other a little, then the son says “you know, I’m wrong and you’re right.” And then the credits roll. And the audience members sit in the theater wondering “where’s the third act?”

It’s not a bad movie. The Duplass brothers love to zoom in and out for no discernible purpose, and they love to linger longer than necessary on certain shots — they seem to have some sort of cinema verite style, despite the fact that cinema verite was proven to be a bore and an aesthetic dead end about forty years ago. But it’s easy enough to overlook that artsy approach, thanks to the savvy performances of good actors. And it’s a good premise.

And I understand why a filmmaker might want to toss aside the Hollywood conventions in the romantic comedy genre. But the phrase “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” is what leaps to mind when filmmakers try so hard to be anti-Hollywood.

A plot really isn’t such a bad idea, boys.

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