NZIFF ’10: Cyrus

nziff ’10: Cyrus
Dir. Jay & Mark Duplass | USA | 2010 | 93 mins.

Mumblecore directors the Duplass brothers (The Puffy Chair, Baghead) bring Oedipus to L.A. in this uproarious comedy starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill and Catherine Keener. Hill plays the son of a widowed woman (Tomei) who still lives at home with his mother, floating through his early 20s and going nowhere fast. Reilly is a sagging, middle-aged man—“Shrek-like,” in his own description—who is recently (well, 7 years ‘recently’) divorced from Keener’s character and reluctantly starts to look for love. He finds Tomei beguiling but has to contend with her indignant, irascible—but superficially contented—son who doesn’t take so kindly to another man moving in on his (Oedipal) turf.

While the characters in something like Nicole Holofcener’s Please Give are hilarious in their bitchy self-centredness, the Duplasses have here created characters who are completely aware of their insignificance in the greater scheme of things, characters who are completely mesmeric and charming in their fragility. Known for their free-spirited improvisation if for nothing else, the directors have struck an oddly perfect balance of ‘mainstream-indie’ tones (think Juno, Little Miss Sunshine) and low-budget filmmaking, and slotted it into a low-key framework.

Carter Burwell’s score is a highlight, but a lone complaint is that the directors seem as yet unable to fully discard their mumblecore training wheels, to shed themselves of the standard gimmicky mumblecore “der I don’t know how to use a camera” camerawork. While clumsily zooming in on characters’ faces faux documentary-like may work in mumblecore films proper, it seems wrong—almost somehow arrogant—to use such techniques with name actors like those cast here.

Cyrus will almost certainly be re-released at Rialto and similar cinemas.