Film Review: CYRUS

Written and Directed by Mark and Jay Duplass
91 minutes
Released in June, 2010
Starring, John C. Riley, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener

I had my doubts going into this one. Number one: I don’t think John C. Riley has what it takes to carry a film. I think he makes a good supporting character, possibly a good villain, but as a love interest, I think he’s too placid and dull. He doesn’t play against type here. Several years ago, we saw Riley and Philip Seymour Hoffman play on Broadway in TRUE WEST. The actors alternated parts from night to night. In our version, Riley played the dangerous brother and Hoffman the intellectual one. It was brilliant. Our friends saw the reverse and contended it didn’t work at all. Riley was just too mushy in the part. Anyway…

PLOT: Lonely guy, John, hooks up with Molly at a party. She’s impressed by a heartfelt speech he delivered to another woman. She’s not even put off when she finds him urinating in the bushes. She takes him home or rather he takes her home. John can’t believe his good luck in attracting this lovely woman. When he shows up at her door, he finds it barred psychologically, if not physically, by her needy son, Cyrus. Cyrus and Molly are very close and Cyrus does what he can to sabotage their relationship. Eventually this barrier becomes too great for John.

Lots of critics have praised this film for not falling into a specific genre. I found that trait annoying. It would have been a better film for me if it were darker–if Molly and Cyrus actually had an incestuous relationship. Or if it were funnier-if Cyrus pulled more comical tricks to keep the two apart. Or if it were more romantic—if John and Molly had any real chemistry. But instead it teetered on the precipice of many things, succeeding at none for me.

Marisa Tomei was its saving grace in that you forgave her for raising her son to be so needy, for being somewhat weak, for not taking her own life seriously enough to have one. This was not a bad film—but it could have been much better. A tepid film for a tepid summer night.

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.