The premise is pure post-Apatow: Depressed divorced guy meets hot single mom at a party. They hit it off. She introduces him to her grown, dumpy son, who still lives with her. The son doesn't like the guy — or any guy, for that matter — getting too close to his mother. "Seriously," he tells the guy. "Don't fuck my mom."
But the dark heart at the center of Cyrus — written and directed by indie-movie vets Jay and Mark Duplass — skips to its own rhythm. The stars (John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, and Marisa Tomei) bring the clumsy charm and biting humor; the Duplasses (working with a budget for the first time) provide the fertile playground.
John (Reilly), still not over a divorce that was finalized years ago, is invited to his ex-wife's engagement party, where he makes an ass of himself with help from a lot of Red Bull and vodka. He's incapable of starting even a simple conversation with the women he meets. When he steps outside to pee in the bushes, cute Molly (Tomei) sneaks a peek. "Nice penis," she tells him.
And so begins John and Molly's relationship, which surprises John (he refers to himself as Shrek) and proceeds smoothly until he meets Cyrus (Hill), Molly's 21-year-old son. John soon realizes why this sexy woman wants to go out with him: Cyrus is a dysfunctional mama's boy who provides some major cock-blocking to his mom's personal life.
At first, the manipulative Cyrus' idiosyncrasies are slight (he makes big, brash electronic music in his mom's living room), but they quickly reach orange-alert levels. He casually strolls into the bathroom while Molly is showering. He wrestles his mom in the park. And he probably did something to John's beloved sneakers the night he stayed over.
The Duplasses' indie aesthetic occasionally gets in the way of Cyrus. Scenes cut and jump where they should linger, and character quirks are often piled on. But Reilly, Hill, and Tomei give their characters plenty of life, feeding off of each other throughout the film.
Cyrus is funny, but it never goes for big, obvious laughs. It's also a simmering pot of menace, with the scheming Cyrus stirring the mix. Hill plays this borderline sociopath as a ticking bomb of mommy and daddy issues. The devious look in his eyes, his condescending attitude toward John and Molly, and his passive-aggressive actions say it all. The movie can't quite sustain this balance for 90 minutes, and the end feels a bit like a copout. But this is a dark comedy that makes room for a little light.
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