The story centers on John (John C. Reilley). He is a lonely bloke content to be alone, not exactly happy but resigned to his status. His ex-wife (Catherine Keener), who is about to remarry, drags the man lump to a party against his will. John is at the party, his not comfortable and is clearly out of his element. It is actually sad to watch him as he alternately sits alone and makes feeble attempts to talk to the women at the party. He is easy to identify with, easy to feel sorry for, and easy to laugh at.
Still at the party, John decides to pee in the bushes when he is discovered by Molly (Marisa Tomei) in a most awkward position. The thing is is that she is a genuinely nice woman who has a genuine interest in the lunk. The two then begin a relationship that seems to be working for both of them.
Now, the problem is that Molly has been out of the dating game for a long time and is currently living with her grown son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill). Cyrus seems to be in a state of carefully disguised arrested development. On the surface he is polite, well spoken, and very welcoming of John. The problem is that beneath the surface he is engaging in passive aggressive warfare with the prize being the possession of Molly.
It is an intriguing battle, one that John is hesitant to reveal to Molly, content to wage a silent war so as not to overturn the apple cart. He has genuine affection for Molly despite her being too blinded to see what Cyrus is up to.
Cyrus works on a couple of levels and puts the talents of all involved to good use. The result is a movie that is quite funny, but diverges from the Apatow style that has been so prevalent over the past few years. This actually takes a much more intimate approach, allowing the relationship and resulting situations to organically grow from the characters.
What makes it work so well are the performances. John C. Reilley does a fantastic job of bringing John to life. He is vulnerable, desperate, honest, and these qualities work to John's advantage when he is with Molly while becoming targeted points when he is with Cyrus. I really felt sorry for the guy as he is stuck between a rock and a hard place in terms of his budding relationship. As good as Reilley is, Marisa Tomei brings even more honesty to the screen as Molly. She is a woman who has been so wrapped up in the care of her son that she has neglected her own happiness for a long time. This new relationship is opening her eyes to her own happiness but could it be at the expense of her relationship with her son? Tomei does a lot her, the emotional experience plays across her face better than it ever could in dialogue.
This brings us the titular character of Cyrus as played by Jonah Hill. Hill is an interesting character. He can be a very funny guy, but here he actually dials it back and plays a much more sedate and reserved character, someone who is on control and knows exactly what he is doing when it comes to his passive aggressive behavior towards John. It is a different sort of role for him and it is interesting to see how he changes over the course of the film as his fears and insecurities are revealed.
The movie was written and directed by Mark and Jay Duplass, the brotherly duo who have been closely associated with the mumblecore movement with their prior films Baghead and The Puffy Chair. This release features the biggest names of any of their films, yet still retains the honesty of their other films. Their work here is open, honest, and very often sweet. It does not contain a great amount of depth, but has enough to say that it is a movie that you should see. The story may not be representative of reality, but it is a very real atmosphere.