I know it is the best interests for distributers to sell a film in the very best way they know how. At the end of the day, they want to get bums on seats, regardless of how they got them there in the first place. There has been plenty of intentionally misleading trailers over the years. Recent examples like the addition of far more alien laser sights fixed on Adrien Brody's torso in the "Predators" trailer and non stop and mindless horror thrills promised from the trailer to "The Last Exorcism" are two that immediately spring to mind. People who are forking their hard earned cash over to sit in a darkened room for two hours want to know exactly what they are getting, and more often than not, these misleading promos can usually do more harm than good. Why tell audiences that the thing that they may have paid to see the film in the first place is not there at all. It is frustrating on the audiences part and the feeling of being cheated can do nothing but harm the original films chances to do what it was originally made to do in the first place. "Predators" only had three aliens, not the multiple foes as promised in the trailer, but I still didn't let it bother me as it still proved to be entertaining in its own right. "The Last Exorcism" turned out to actually be quite a clever character study and offered more in the way (until that disastrous finale) than usual horrors have been giving us recently. That the film was actually ruined by loud and obnoxious members of the audience too impatient to sit through the subtle character details, and (very loudly) voicing their thoughts on the horror that may be in store for them only left me livid and intent on not enjoying the final film on its own terms; rather why it provoked the audience to react like this, and hence why the film was not reviewed here. That this happened to me again the following week when I sat down to "Cyrus" only provoked questions of why these distributers seem intent on harming their (sometimes very precious) films chances for finding its audience. Sure, they have to get an audience in the first place, but when it comes from such a misleading direction, prompts question of when does it change from 'selling' to 'lying' to the audience? That all these examples are very fine films in their own right begs the question; why compensate for something that isn't there? Have more faith in your film, and it will find its true audience if it is good enough. Which then brings me to this review.
Initial trailers for "Cyrus" promised a raucous indie comedy. Shades of infant, silly humour reminiscent of "Step Brothers" seemed apparant, mixed with a healthy dose of indie sensibilities so as to balance out the mad cap comedy on display. That it also featured Jonah Hill and recent comedy graduate John C. Reilly only perpetuated this. How strange it was then, to sit down and find that this was not the comedy with some occasional drama as expected; more so, a drama sprinkled with a few choice moments of humour here and there. The result as I was watching was while not disliking the film, I found myself irritated at my own preconceived notions. I believed I always let a film play on its own terms no matter what, and yet here I was, not doing so. I wanted and expected a comedy. If I had been sold the very decent and quite original drama that it is, I could have enjoyed the film more. Advertising took away from the film. This is all the more regrettable as the film is a very enjoyable one indeed. I may perhaps review this again on its own terms soon, but as for now, I am only left with my feelings as I walked out of the theatre.
John C. Reilly is John, a 40 something divocee. He still spends more time than is healthy with his ex and is seemingly unwilling to get over her. That mixed with his very lonely existence seems to be taking over his life. Imagine then his good fortune, when he meets Molly, played by Marisa Tomei. The two strike up a relationship and John believes his luck is finally changing as he finds himself, for once in a very long time, happy. This all changes however when he is introduced to Cyrus, Molly's 20-something grown son played by Hill, who immediately takes a dislike to John. The two butt heads over their affection (and in Cyrus' case, quite unhealthily so) for Molly. While this provides moments of quiet, subtle humour, focus is primarily kept on its quirky characters. There are no laugh out loud set pieces here. As befitting a cast this talented, everyone delivers knock out performances. It's been a while since Reilly has delivered a role this nuanced and reminded me of what a talented character actor he was and still continues to be. While excelling at his more recent and broader comedy output, it's refreshing to see he hasn't lost his dramatic sensibilities. Marisa Tomei continues her late career transformation into a very worthy actress, although some more character detail would be welcome for Molly (is she unaware of how unhealthy her relationship with Cyrus has become?). Catherine Keener has it in her contract to appear in every indie film ever and again gives a nice little performance. However, it is Jonah Hill who surprises the most. Previously seen very loudly spouting crude lines of dialogue for Judd Apatow, here he plays Cyrus with some very refreshing depth and respect for his character. Underneath that quite calm exterior, there is a wealth of aggression and emotion that he does not seem to be able to grasp onto. He expects and wishes everyone to treat him like an adult, and yet it seem he is still finding it hard to mature to one. This results in some very awkward conversations with John and what has to be, in this year anyway, the most cringe inducing dinner scene in recent memory. Siblings, The Duplass Brothers helmed proceedings and they inject some very real observations on human behaviour. This comes from their 'mumblecore' past, but giving the actors the scene and letting them improvise around it results in some very real moments. Of course this could have resulted in disaster, but letting the actors find their characters as opposed to being told what they are, is very refreshing. The only problem with this, is that giving the actors such free reign means that the film isn't especially good looking. Shaky hand held camera, mixed with frequent zooms means that while it adds to the realism, it hardly makes the film shine.
However, this brings me back to my minor quibbles with the film. The film is very well acted, and offers some very memorable characters and situations, but is not what I was expecting. These feelings were not to be put to rest as tension rose in the audience as they kept on expecting belly laughs that never came. The feeling became palpable among us. Cyrus has some very uncomfortable oedipal like tendencies to deal with, and it is a very unassuming and lonely man who is on the receiving end of his inability to deal with his emotions. While far from bleak or draining, it just isn't what most mainstream audiences will want to see. Which is fine, but why invite them in the first place?
A very original and excellantly acted study of conflicting relationships. The film knows what it is and does it very well, just don't go in and expect the laugh riot as what was initially suggested.