I've been sitting on this one for a while, mostly because Cyrus, I think, is a fairly thin film. Also I kind of wanted to take in a second viewing before I completely made up my mind. And while the film, in it's limited release, has earned a fair share of critical praise and been a brisk performer for specialty movies, I, unfortunately, try as I might can't count myself as a fan. It's an icky, not especially funny, not especially dark, wannabe quirky comedy about a middle-aged man, John, played by John C. Rielly who develops a romance with Molly (Marisa Tomei), only to be tormented by her odd grown-up son, played by Jonah Hill, in a performance very much resembling everything else he's ever done. The film was written and directed by Mark and Jay Duplass, in their first semi-major gig since coming on to indie scene with mumblecore signatures like Baghead and The Puffy Chair.
It seems the film wants to be the sort to specialize in those all-too-human moments of awkwardness, which as first seems fairly relatable until it gets icky (I'm sorry for over-using the word but I think it's the best adjective to define the film's odd brand of humor.) There's a smart meet cute moment at a party, where John meets Molly-- he's a bit drunk and perhaps a tad too honest, and she's smitten by his refreshing candor. The moment where boyfriend meets girlfriend's son, again is something acceptable awkward in dating, but what grows out of this is perhaps a too strained need for awkward socializing.
There's not much to fault on the actors, Reilly does a good job of filling in a lonely man longing for companionship, never quite getting over his now seven-year divorce from first wife Jamie (played effortlessly, as usual, by Catherine Keener, perhaps the ultimate saving grace in any film.) Tomei is alternatively sexy and real as woman forced for the first time to choose between romantic relationship and son, however some of her choices never seem to be all that believable. I'd say that's perhaps more of a script problem than Tomei's. And then there's Hill, in a performance always seemingly winking at the digital camera, whose faux sincerity never quite jells fully as particularly funny, nor creepy.
It's Keener, however, as the woman who put John into his fragile emotional state that I think serves as the sort of moral center here. In a role that quite paper-thin, this majestic actress conjures I think the only genuine moments in the film, carefully constructing a character who first off demands John become social to begin with, and also to stop acting like a crazy person, when the self-sabotage sets in. It's an ace in the hole in an otherwise meddling film. C-