Photo: Allmoviephoto.com
(It's a pity party in the U.S.A.)

Starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill and Catherine Keener. Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass. 92 minutes. 14A

When it comes down it, Jay and Mark Duplass really are clever sons of bitches.

First, they cheekily name their latest feature after a totally unrelated hot mess of a multiple-personality teen pop star. Then, they get hysterical everydudes, Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly to star in it, and fight with each other dramatically, both physically and verbally. Recipe for awesomeness, right? More like, semi-awkwardness.

The indie world's wannabee Coen Bros should have a hit on their hands with Cyrus. And in some ways they do. But in others, it just seems like they just put out the latest lukewarm Sundance darling.

Cyrus is essentially She's Out of My League with dark humour, better music and mommy issues. The story follows an uber-loner named John (John C. Reilly) who prefers to blast gangsta rap and jerk off instead of meet people and counts his ex-wife, Jamie (Catherine Keener) as his only friend. But things start looking up when Jamie invites him to a party and he meets an oddly friendly single lady named Molly (Marisa Tomei). Everything's going way-too-well until John meets the other man in her life, her too-close-for-comfort 22-year-old live-in son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill).

If you get anything out of this movie, it's that John C. Reilly needs to get more nominations. In this flick, and every other dramedy he's done, he's smoothly moves between awkwardly charming and over-the-top (at one point, he sings "Don't You Want Me Baby" to the unimpressed party guests, later he poses like a jaguar in a tree for a impromptu photoshoot) and seriously depressed (see: his face after the least-attractive girl at the party excuses herself to make a "phone call"). But you never stop believing him or his ironically cartoonish face. At one point, his character asks Molly,"What are you doing in the forest with Shrek!?" The answer is obvious. You're irresistible, Monsieur Cellophane.

The real Oscar-winner of the flick, Marisa Tomei, is less impressive. She, and her wickedly out-of-control hair, overact their heart out of their lame parts. Jonah Hill, on the other hand, is downright awesome. We think of him being this over-the-top obsessive dude, and yes, he's doing it again here, but it's much more toned down and actually, more funny. His strength is his deadpan delivery and he gets more than a few chances to flex that here, especially next to Reilly. The duo are like Dirk Diggler and Reed Rothchild with hate.

Unfortunately, the awesome chemistry (or lack of I suppose) between Hill and Reilly can't save Cyrus from it's awkward camera work. The whole movie is shot like a one-camera sitcom, featuring shaky zoom-ins to emphasize facial expressions. It's supposed to be so amateurish it's artsy, but it just comes off pretentious and distracting.

In the end, Cyrus has the same problem as the other Cyrus had before she left Disney: it's stuck in an identity crisis. It doesn't know whether it's a comedy or a drama, and it takes too long to decide, leaving you feeling a bit bipolar by the end. Perhaps it's time for the Duplass bros to take off their blond wigs and head home for some reflection and reckless line-dancing. Or whatever it is those indie dudes do. B

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