Taking a respite from the lowbrow fun of Superbad and Knocked Up, Cyrus finds Jonah Hill taking his particular brand of funny to a more intimate arena. And intimate it is. The film, which focuses on the taking (or violation) of the intimacy that partners in a relationship allow one another, even goes so far as to feature a large chunk of whispered dialogue. John C. Reily’s John often whispers to his new girlfriend, Molly (Marisa Tomei). John and Molly’s son, Cyrus (Hill), whisper heated words to one another. And at the crux of the film are the loving whispers between Molly and Cyrus.
While it’s never stated outright that the relationship between Cyrus and Molly is incestuous, their uber-exclusive dynamic hints at something very unhealthy. This gives Hill the opportunity to shoot plenty of creepy, unblinking stares at John, and the audience plenty of moments to uncomfortably laugh at. We’re left wondering if Cyrus is merely a harmless momma’s boy, or if John has a regular Norman Bates on his hands.
Meanwhile, Tomei’s Molly makes the insanity of the men in her life seem almost understandable. She’s effortlessly charming, and ultimately makes an underwritten character unavoidably lovable. Likewise, Reily uses his signature aw-shucks demeanor to again prove that he’s as much at home in a serious drama as he is in a frat-pack comedy (two genres that Cyrus seems to try and capture simultaneously). Catherine Keener also makes an appearance as John’s affable ex-wife, a woman dealing with her own Cyrus-esque hanger-on: her needy ex-husband.
Much like Knocked Up, the film’s female characters are rather lightly drawn. Molly is certainly interesting, but the bulk of the film’s focus is devoted to the actions of the neuroses-riddled men in her life.
Even still, that the boundaries examined in Cyrus span from squirm-inducing awkwardness to rom com mundane (how fast should Molly and John take their relationship?) is what makes the film far more interesting than the usual frat-pack fare.