It’s been seven years since his divorce yet middle-aged John (John C. Reilly) is still single and suffering terrible pangs of loneliness and lack of self-esteem. “I’m like Shrek,” he says.
Urged by his ex-wife/best friend Jamie (Catherine Keener), forlorn John reluctantly agrees to join her and her fiancé Tim (Matt Walsh) at a party. That’s where he meets high-spirited, compassionate Molly (Marisa Tomei), who is attracted to his sweetness and honesty. They click and a romance begins. But John’s disturbed that she insists on going home at the end of the evening, refusing to stay until morning. So, late one night, he follows Molly and discovers that she has been hiding the fact that she’s living with her grown son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill).
It becomes rapidly obvious that Molly has infantilized 21 year-old Cyrus, home-schooling him and allowing him shirk all responsibility by focusing on his New Age music. To call their unconventional relationship bizarre is an understatement. Undaunted, John tries to be understanding and befriend Cyrus, who is pathologically protective of his relationship with his mother. Passive-aggressive subterfuges ensue, as John does his best to create a ‘family’ while duplicitous Cyrus seems equally determined not to cooperate.
In this weirdly dark, slow-paced comedy, set in Los Angeles, filmmaking siblings Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass delve superficially into the Oedipal relationship, setting up some ominous rivalry situations, only to retreat in a third-act letdown. This is the first time that the iconoclastic Duplass brothers have worked within the studio system. Their previous features, “The Puffy Chair” and “Baghead,” part of the so-called mumblecore movement, attracted film festival aficionados, and they continue their penchant for low-budget, original, quirky concepts, encouraging their actors to improvise awkward banter. Cast as the perpetual loser, John C. Reilly (“Step Brothers”) acquits himself admirably, as does Jonah Hill (“Get Him to the Greek”), while lovely Marisa Tomei (“The Wrestler”) struggles with her underdeveloped part.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Cyrus” is an engaging, emotionally edgy 6. Families don’t come more dysfunctional than this one.