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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES: Digital copy; Deleted scenes; Puppet movie; Cyrus party; Trailer; Q&A with Directors/ Writers Jay & Mark Duplass; Music Mash Up with John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill; Behind the Scenes at South By Southwest with Jay & Mark Duplass; In Character with John C Reilly; In Character with Jonah Hill.

THE mumblecore school of filmmaking epitomised by the likes of the recent Humpday is given a mainstream edge with Cyrus, an engrossing, offbeat comedy that looks set to bring the talents of Jay and Mark Duplass to a much wider audience.

Touted as a Judd Apatow-style battle of wits between John C Reilly and Jonah Hill in the movie’s trailer, the film is actually a much darker, much more bittersweet affair that confidently merges gross out elements with cringe-inducing situation comedy and plenty of heart and soul to boot.

When emotionally restricted loner John (Reilly) is caught masturbating at home by his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener), she encourages him to get out more and attend a party in the hope that he can finally start to move on after seven years.

Incredibly, John is then caught urinating outside the party by the hopelessly cute Molly (Marisa Tomei) who, after admiring his man-hood and supporting him through an excruciating dance sequence, takes a shine to his awkwardness and honesty.

The two start an unlikely affair, with the needy John keen to move things along as fast as possible. But when he eventually meets Molly’s son Cyrus (Hill) problems occur, particularly as the creepy 21-year-old immediately sets his sights on scuppering the relationship.

What ensues is a fascinating battle of wits between the two men as both vy for Molly’s affections while coming to terms with their only inability to properly grow up.

Audiences expecting consistently big laughs may, however, be surprised to find that the movie adopts a more slow-burning approach, with the comedy suggested in the trailer more awkward and chuckle inducing than it first appears.

Indeed, there’s an uneasiness about much of the proceedings that makes certain sequences more painful to watch than thrilling, while allowing plenty of room for the actors to build credible performances as the flawed individuals at the centre of the story.

As such, Reilly is typically excellent as he combines some of the comedy chops he’s previously shown in Will Ferrell vehicles with the indie edge that helped make his name. His John is far from perfect… a lonely, desperate guy who kind of ‘stalks’ his way into Molly’s home, and then tries desperately to do everything in his power to win her and beat Cyrus at his own game. But he’s somehow always likeable and root-worthy.

Hill, meanwhile, also excels as the creepy son, delivering the type of tightly coiled performance that keeps you guessing for some time as to just how far his relationship with Molly goes. He’s by turns sinister, sensitive and cruel… yet the Duplass brothers’ screenplay affords him a humanity that makes the last act reveal surprisingly poignant.

And let’s not forget Tomei, whose easygoing charm and beauty gives rise to a typically endearing character – albeit one who is as culpable in regard to Cyrus’ emotional failings as she is wreckless (at times) with her emotions.

Cyrus is therefore a much better, even deeper, film than first glances suggest. Buoyed by a trio of top-drawer performances and a knowingly offbeat sense of awkward humour, as well as raw and often powerful emotions, it provides a truly satisfying night out at the flicks.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 91mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 21, 2011