DVD movie review, ‘Cyrus’: Room and bored

Due Tuesday from Fox Searchlight, Cyrus is one of those quirky little indie movies that critics who see films for free will rave about (it got 81% favorable reviews on rottentomatoes.com), urging you to spend your hard-earned money on a ticket or a rental. But afterward you may be wondering, “Why all the fuss — and why did I spend that?”

Sporting a fine cast, the film is a decent enough character study and relationship drama involving a sad-sack divorcee (John C. Reilly), the more-attractive-than-he woman who conveniently falls into his lap (Marissa Tomei) and her grown son in his 20s who still lives with her and depends on her (Jonah Hill). But those details don’t add up to more than the proverbial molehill.

It turns out Hill is no sad momma’s boy with arrested development but rather a creepy, sinister and deceitful jerk. Though Reilly makes Tomei happy — far more than her son does and, ahem, in ways that he can’t  — Hill tries to wreck the new union by sabotaging Reilly. He doesn’t want a dad — he selfishly wants his mom all to himself.

Things get really ugly when Reilly figures out his scheme and the two get violently confrontational. Yet neither bothers bringing Tomei into the loop.

This is called lying — and such deceit toward a woman whom both profess to love is even uglier than the uncomfortable shenanigans between interloper Reilly and stay-at-home Hill.

I mean, really. How many movie and TV plots spring from serious lying — the kind of thing you don’t encounter daily in the real world, and if you did, you’d stay away from such people forever. But Screenwriting 101 says “When in doubt, stretch out the plot via lies,” so that’s what we get.

The film tries to find profundities in Hill’s mental condition (he allegedly once had “panic attacks” but seems perfectly fine now) and his unhealthy dependence on his mom (though he’s readily able to move out at one point, and does so). We just need to understand him, I suppose. Poor baby.

Poor us, because I’m not buying it. What’s to understand about this vindictive, lazy loser who’s an albatross around his mother’s neck?

If anything, Hill is quite ordinary in this day an age. We’re talking young persons in their 20s or even 30s who still rely on their parents, even to the point of living at home well after college graduation age, now-you-can-vote age, now-you-can-drink age, take your pick. And they do so in large part because those parents — who grew up fending for themselves — for some reason enable such childish dependence with helicoptering zeal.

In nature, the momma or daddy bird shoos the young ‘uns out of the nest when they’ve grown enough. There’s a big wide world out there, and every individual should learn to make his or her way in it. But society today is filled with folks like Hill, who are ready to leach off their parents instead of repaying their love by standing on their own two feet.

In that context, I found Cyrus less engaging or intriguing than predictable and boring. We see too much of this banal exploitation in everyday life — so they needed to make a movie about it?

Sure, the actors are capable, and they run through their paces with an unstudied, offhanded naturalism. This befits the documentary-style photography and improv bent of directors Jay and Mark Duplass. But if it’s reality we want, it’s there all around us.

What this story really needed was enlightenment — a probing of why such unhealthy parent-child relationships evolve, and what can be done as alternatives.

Also, we needed a message not to lie to your mom or your girlfriend. They deserve better. And we all deserve better than Cyrus.

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