CYRUS Blu-ray Review

     January 4, 2011

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2010 was the year the mumblecore filmmakers and stars began to descend on Hollywood. Or at least it seems that way with the success of filmmakers like the Duplass brothers and Greta Gerwig. Both Gerwig and writer/director/actor Mark Duplass appeared in Greenberg, while Jay and Mark Duplass wrote and directed Cyrus for 20th Century Fox and Scott Free productions. Perhaps Ridley and Tony Scott appreciated the brothers Duplass working together as a fellow set of brothers. Dunno. In Cyrus, John C. Reilly stars as a single man who at the bottom of his life when he meets Marisa Tomei’s character, an attractive woman who doesn’t seem to have anything wrong with her. At least it seems that way until Reilly meets Cyrus (Jonah Hill), her man-child son who lives at home and seems to be plotting for Tomei and Reilly’s relationship to end. My review of Cyrus on Blu-ray follows after the jump.

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Reilly’s John starts the film masturbating, which is discovered by his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener). She sees that he’s fallen into depression, and invites him to her wedding party, and says there will be single women there. He attends, and tries talking to random women, but he’s off his game and mostly embarrasses himself. But then he meets Molly (Tomei) who likes his clumsy honesty, and helps save him when he sings along and no one else is interested. The two end up in the sack, but she likes keeping her home life secret. John decides to follow her home (worried there might be someone else), and meets Cyrus (Hill). At first the two get along, and John tries to be honest about the relationship, which he sees moving forward. Cyrus begins a campaign against him in subtle, and then less subtle ways.

I ended up running into Mark Duplass, and we talked about his process, and he talked about having to edit the film while they were shooting. They shot on the Red camera, and with a lot of digital productions, the video or film is the cheapest aspect, so they will do a number of different takes of wildly varying tones. As such, the film is found in the edit (in some ways), as the brothers try and find the truth in the situations. And to that, Cyrus is a much smaller film than it might appear. The set-up for this film has all the trappings of something over the top and silly, something that could easily be made with Ashton Kutcher or Eddie Murphy. But what marks Jay and Mark Duplass’s filmmaking sensibility is the honesty of the characters shines through. Cyrus is no evil mastermind, and his plans somewhat work, but more important to the film is that Cyrus sees how getting what he wants hurts his mother. And so what would normally be a set piece of comic confusion becomes about how manipulation of people to get what you want has negative effects. It’s a surprisingly poignant film.

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That would mean nothing without good performances, and everyone involved is excellent. Jonah Hill is a performer best known for his work in Judd Apatow movies, and here he’s not just playing a comic ringer, but a damaged child whose weight is the ultimate excuse for his rejection of the world. In that way the film finds a way to parallel the two male leads in interesting ways without ever making it too Freudian. Hill gives a performance that is outside his normal comfort one, and he does well by it. It’s also worth noting that Reilly and Tomei are excellent in their roles as well, but tht comes as no surprise. It’s a small movie about characters, though it’s still funny, just not in as broad a way as the material might suggest. It makes me interested to see what the Duplass brothers do next.

Fox’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS 5.1 HD surround. The Red camera is still limited, but the digital transfer on Blu is as good as the film can look, and I was surprised that the film looked as good as it did. There is no commentary, but the film comes with two deleted scenes (8 min.) with filmmaker introductions (3 min.), and a Q&A with the directors (8 min.) with their children present. They cover the most asked questions, and mostly goof. There’s a Music Mash Up with Hill and Reilly (4 min.) that has the stars making funky music out of their dialogue, then there’s footage of the directors showing the film for the first time at SXSW (3 min.). Both Reilly (5 min.) and Hill (3 min.) do “In Character” interviews for the Fox Movie Channel, while the disc also features the film’s theatrical trailer, and a bonus trailer for Never Let Me Go.


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