Cyrus Movie Review: Jonah Hill Does Oedipus Wrecks

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A bad timing love triangle and intermittent emotional showdown, Cyrus swings between tragic moments and awkward laughs, with a likewise indecisive female object of desire who can’t seem to make up her mind between two competing rivals for her affection. In any case, she’s already deeply involved with one of them, who just happens to be her possessive son.

Written and directed by siblings Jay and Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair, Baghead), Cyrus stars John C. Reilly as divorced loner John, a guy in a deep funk still stressed about the wife (Catherine Keener) who left him nearly a decade ago. But his spirits are lifted when Molly (Marisa Tomei) walks into his life, and is a rare woman not repelled by his moodiness. Though her secretive habit of bolting from his bedroom at dawn is a little on the suspect extramarital if not Cinderella side, to say the least.

So John follows her home one morning, and is surprised to encounter her unusually polite adult son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill). It seems that Mommy fears upsetting the grown child by sharing herself with any man, so she’s never actually had a boyfriend. And though Cyrus in peculiar hubby mode extends gracious hospitality towards the baffled beau, when he starts sleeping over it’s an entirely different matter. Cyrus is soon beckoning Mom into his own bed to quell night terror hysterics out of nowhere, when not mysteriously disappearing his competitor’s shoes. While Molly mostly frets over her package deal emotionally pampered and manipulative aging kid, and establishes expectations of way beyond the call of duty understanding from an increasingly angry John.

Too talky for its own good, the movie plays out more like a series of psychodrama therapy sessions, than a story with solid dramatic momentum. And though Hill and Reilly are a feisty matchup when locking territorial horns around major separation anxiety issues, it’s a stretch to place these two terrific comic actors in such solemn situations.

Combining an overload of Oedipal and empty nest syndrome elements without a clear focus as to where it’s all headed, Cyrus also perpetuates that stereotypical blame game notion in movies, that males raised by single moms without a man around are defective, and inevitable damaged goods. In any case, John and Jonah, you just come off a whole lot better when you make us laugh.

Cyrus: Smitten loons and toxic mommies, while Oedipus Wrecks.

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Rated R

2 1/2 [out of 4] stars