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If the names Jay and Mark Duplass don’t ring a bell for you, you are clearly not a follower of the “mumblecore” film movement of the mid-2000s. (Remember Lars von Trier’s “Dogma” movement of the 1990s? It’s like that without the glitz.) The Duplasses were not the leading exponents of mumblecore, but their films were been most widely distributed: Both The Puffy Chair and Baghead played in Buffalo. They’ve gone Hollywood with Cyrus, which features actual movie stars but is otherwise closer to the kind of semi-improvised, low-key movie the brothers have been making up until now.

John C. Reilly stars as John, a depressed loser who starts to come out of his shell when he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei) at a party. Things go great until he meets her son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill), who lives with Molly. Introducing himself as “almost 22,” Cyrus appears to be cool with his mom dating but is in fact anything but.

With this cast and story, audiences are likely to be expecting something on the lines of Stepbrothers: You assume the level of discomfort (Cyrus is waaaay too close to mom) will keep escalating until it reaches a state of open comic warfare. At least, you assume that if you’ve never seen a mumblecore movie. Working for a larger audience for the first time, the Duplasses’ goal seems to have been to take a conventionally comic situation and treat it as it might be handled by real people. Whether the frustration this induces is intentional or incidental I don’t know. The actors are watchable, and seem interested in developing their characters (aside from Tomei, whose part isn’t well-written enough to triangulate the others the way it should). But it’s not much of a drama and even less of a comedy. The biggest laugh I got from it was reading the end credits and learning that it was produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, whose goal can only have been to finance a film as unlike their own as possible.

m. faust

Watch the trailer for Cyrus

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