John C. Reilly has an uncanny gift for making his characters seem simultaneously depressed and lively. In “Cyrus,” he’s found his archetypal role as John, a sometime editor and layabout who, after seven years, is still reeling from his divorce. (He was dumped.) When he finds out his ex-wife (Catherine Keener) is remarrying, he goes into a tailspin but, in a deus ex machina moment, the woman of his dreams, Molly (Marisa Tomei) comes up to him at a party, and pretty soon they’re a couple. The catch: Her live-in, 21-year-old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill), Molly’s best friend and, as soon becomes obvious (though not to Molly), John’s worst enemy.
Written and directed by the brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, “Cyrus” is a furtive little farce with a deadpan style all its own. Reilly doesn’t go for the obvious laughs. John’s ardor for Molly is actually quite touching, which is why, when Cyrus threatens to wreck his elation, he’s both bereft and enraged.
Tomei doesn’t reach for obvious effects, either. Her Molly may be clueless about Cyrus’s inner imp, but she’s no dingbat. She wants things to work out with John, but she also wants Cyrus to be happy. On some level, she probably does see Cyrus for the relationship-wrecker that he is, but she’s repressed it.
Hill is so familiar to us from playing mumbly, sweet-souled goofballs, most recently in “Get Him to the Greek,” that’s it’s a bit off-putting to see him playing a tightly wound, beady-eyed creep. But even here, there’s more than meets the eye and ear. Hill manages to convey Cyrus’s real pain as well as his faked pain.
“Cyrus” slows down by the end, and even before then it’s often too mopey for its own good. But there’s an original comic temperament at work here, and that’s rare. Grade: B+ (Rated R for language and some sexual material.)
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