Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nog and Cyrus and the Duplass Brothers!

The Duplass' brothers have emerged from the "mumblecore" world of their previous films. The Puffy Chair and Baghead, and entered the multiplex with Cyrus, keeping the awkward relationships and off-kilter sensibility of the earlier films pretty much intact. Oddly enough, their foray into the mainstream is actually a darker and edgier film than the early works and, I think, better. It comes off less "look-at-me-I'm quirky" than Puffy Chair and less "look-at-me-I'm-meta" than the super-odd Baghead. John C. Reilly (a Nog On Film favorite!) plays John, seven years divorced and increasingly isolated. He remains unusually close to his about-to-be-remarried ex (Catherine Keener) who coaxes him out to a party where he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei). Molly zeros in on the very qualities that the rest of the party guests find offputting (his neediness, his awkward honesty), and they fall into a quick relationship. Too quick, at least according to Molly's 21 year old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill), who still lives at home and shares an unusually close and ultra-dependent relationship with his mother (whom he always calls Molly). I've deliberately used "unusually" twice here, as opposed to something like "inappropriate," because the Duplass's seem, on some level, interested in questioning the nature of familial and sexual relationships. What does it mean to be an ex-lover? What does it mean to be a mother and son? Where are the necessary boundaries in these relationships? Midway through, the film briefly threatens to turn into a broader kind of comedy, as John and Cyrus engage in a battle for Molly's affection, but this is no Stepbrothers, and a slapsticky moment at Keener's wedding quickly yields to raw, honest emotions. Near the end of the film, the Duplass's give us a bonding moment between John and Cyrus, allowing the often-creepy Cyrus to soften his edges and let down his guard. "I'm starting to think I'm a fucked-up and dysfunctional person," he tells John. It's a laugh-line for the audience (we're all thinking, "No shit!"), but it's a moment of honest recognition for Cyrus. The films ends more-or-less happily, though certainly not happily-ever-after-ly in the way of a more typical romantic comedy. We sense that both John and Cyrus, previously locked in patterns that don't allow for real emotional growth, are both now ready to move on to new stages of life. And this doesn't feel sappy, but hard-earned. How rare is that? The Duplass brothers supposedly work in a heavily improvisational manner, which is easy to believe. The writing isn't showy, but the characters feel very lived-in. There is solid work from all four main actors here. Yes, even Jonah Hill. Good film.

1 comment:

  1. I wasn't really interested in this film until now. Nice piece. It's cool that you'll have these -- all these essays on film.