What easily could’ve been another version of the wacky comedy Step Brothers is instead a heart warming and realistic tale of a rivalry. While Cyrus does have plenty of comedic moments, it’s real life instead of a high-concept comedy. It fits perfectly in line with the previous Duplass brother films.
If you’re aware of the Duplass brothers shooting style then you know why Cyrus feels so genuine and honest. There’s not a single moment that “jumps-the-shark” when it comes to its grounding in realism. Everyone and every situation feels real. It’s astonishing with such a concept that the Duplass brothers were capable of keeping it from going over-the-top. But if you look at their past films such as, the excellent The Puffy Chair, then this will come as no surprise.
John (John C. Reilly) is alone and feeling isolated. His ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener) is getting remarried and he’s almost slipping into being labeled by many as just another “ex-husband.” When John meets Molly (played by the slightly underwritten Marisa Tomei) nearly at his lowest – he’s drunk at a party in a constant state of awkwardness – he finally connects with someone that understands him. John knows he’s a good person and even says so. Most sadly don’t see it but Molly takes notice. At first, their relationship seems to be going fantastic despite the obvious secret Molly is hiding from John, Cyrus (Jonah Hill).
When John further enters Molly’s life, the more antagonistic Cyrus gets towards him. Cyrus doesn’t hide his disdain for John early on. He at first plays small tricks on him soon escalating to emotionally hurtful acts. Cyrus not only is tampering with his relationship with Molly, but one of his main goals: to get his life together and prove himself at his ex’s wedding.
From reading that description, it’s easy to think how the film itself could be totally ludicrous, but it’s far from it. The tone is incredibly well-handled and everyone seems to have a sense of restraint not to take things too far. Another surprising aspect is how sympathetic Cyrus truly is. You understand his emotional wounds and attachment to Molly. She’s the only one in his life and to have someone he doesn’t know take away from that is obviously drastic. Hill balances the creepy comedic side of things as well as the subtle feelings Cyrus has. It’s a tremendous performance as is John C. Reilly’s.
Reilly here is at his most vulnerable where you just can’t help but to care for John. You want to see him succeed and have things go right for him. As it is in life, not everything works out. He’s being lowered by Cyrus. John ends up doing questionable things in the film as well, but he’s pushed to his limit. Ironically, he makes John and Cyrus both very similar in terms of their emotional state. They’re both in need and scared they’ll be thrown to the side. It’s a subtle connection to the two that adds another layer to an already complicated relationship.
Cyrus is that Sundance hit that’s confidently being put out in the summer. It’s a great unconventional love triangle film that you can adore as much as the characters themselves.