Sunday, July 25, 2010

CYRUS and The Evolution of the Mumblecorp Movement

I am seemingly on a kick of reviewing single-word title movies, which would make for a shorter review also, if I was any other guy!  I actually hope to keep this one short, but I quite a bit to say.

CYRUS is written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass...the Duplass Brothers, as they have been known for nearly a decade in independent film circles, but more recently we the general movie going public have been exposed to them.  They come from the mumblecorp crew of filmmaking, which according to Wikipedia, has been active since 2002. 

Mumblecorp is, from what I have seen, movies that feature short bursts of peoples lives, exactly as they are living them.  You are given the vantage point of the fly on the wall would.  The characters are real, the situations are real, and the movies pull you in because you relate and even possibly have gone through something similar in your life (you just aren't as good looking or as witty and were paid way less than the actors were!).  In addition, the movies are typically low budget and very-DIY. 

I read filmmaking magazines and script writing journals and I follow the blogs online.  I have seen the Duplass Brothers' names bounced around through increasingly more mainstream circles for the last four years. 

Mark has a lead role, as Pete, on a very funny FX show called The League.  From this mumblecorp crew, he is showing his bones as an actor as well as a writer/director and his work both in front of the camera and behind in their early pictures certainly have made this versatile guy very marketable.  Other 'corp features he has written and directed include THE PUFFY CHAIR and BAGHEAD.  The Puffy Chair is available on watch instantly, as is HUMPDAY, a 2009 Lynn Shelton directed film.  Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard play Ben and Andrew, long-time heterosexual best friends who agree, while boozed, to have sex with each other for a film project, called....yep: HUMPDAY.  This isn't even mentioning that Duplass's Ben is married, to Lynn Shelton's character, Monica.  Yeah, it's pretty complex and yeah, Joshua Leonard...that's the Blair Witch Project's Joshua.  Where has he been? Yikes.  The movie is not nearly as sexually orientated as it may sound and it serves as more of a look at the crisis-of-faith moments that normal people endure.  I attribute the watchability to the mumblecorp approach.  It feels like real life.  You care for these characters and right up to the very end, you will be asking: "Are they gonna do it?".

Well all that said, I am a fan of this posse of filmmakers.  The DIY approach is good...the films have a grainy appearance that makes them more enduring, but add some $$$$$$ into the mix, and it's a whole new ballgame.

I would very much qualify Cyrus as a mumblecorp film....except it is the first STUDIO PICTURE by this crew.  It was financed by Scott Free Productions, being the Brothers Scott....Ridley and Tony.  Fox Searchlight distributed.  I read an interview with Mark Duplass where he was asked if working for the studios changed anything for him.  He said resoundingly YES!  The best part about it....more money!  The worst part about can't just pick up your camera and all becomes much more complex.  There are call sheets and unions and scheduling.  The bigger the budget, usually, the bigger the problems.  Duplass raved on how easy the transition was, and while having craft services make the lunches and catering the breaks was nice; I think they missed having the parents of the crew cook family dinners for everyone. 

A bigger budget does have an upside in that you no longer need to fill roles with friends and family and you actually get a shot at a "big-budget" cast.  The earlier films are great, though, and the casts of unknowns in the other films gives them a texture that big budget features are often lacking.  Fortunately, Cyrus fills the characters out with perfect choices for each part. 

CYRUS tells the tale of John, played by John C. Reilly, as a divorcee, who finds out that his ex-wife Jaime (Catherine Keener) is about to get married to Tim (Matt Walsh).  Jaime and John are still friends and when Jaime catches John in a very awkward moment, she drops the bomb on him that she is getting remarried.  Jaime decides that she is going to get him motivated to go out and meet a gal.

Smash-cut to a hipster party, where John sticks out like the un-hip thumb that he is.  In a great turn, he meets Marisa Tomei's Molly, who when she flirts with John, he drops the killer line: "But I'm like Shrek....what are you doing in the forest?"  It was funny and actually spoiled by the trailer, so I don't feel bad sharing it here.

John and Molly make quick friends and then quick lovers.  John is troubled because in the few, brief overnighters they have shared at John's house, Molly slips out after John falls asleep.  She denies that there is anything weird going on and in a great move, John stalk-follows her home when she leaves.  He falls asleep in his car outside of her house.  When he wakes up, he goes up to the front of the house, where he has his first encounter with the titular character, Cyrus, played by Jonah Hill.

Let the games begin! Or so most would think...I am sure that most people who see this mainstream, semi-wide release will expect something far different than what this movie delivers on.  There is not a till the death battle with something terrible lurking at every turn like you would get trying to bring the Montagues and Capulets together.  This is a subtle film that does have its fair share of mental warfare, but at a much more realistic level. 

Everything that happens in this film is 100% believable, except the haters out there who deny the possibility that a Marissa Tomei would ever fall for a John C. Reilly....hey folks, The Reel Rhino is a Shrek, as well, and I got me a Fiona! I hate that people fixate on whether or not people would actually ever date based on appearance.  We heard the same garbage for Sidney Lumet's Until The Devil Knows You're Dead when Tomei was married to Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character.  Where were the complaints when Tomei was falling for a very haggard and beaten Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler? I guess because she played a stripper there, it was alright?  Enough about that, but people should be more open minded to the strong arm of the love bug, even when we know it is a work of fiction.

The majority of this movie deals with Cyrus, Molly's 21 year old son, who was home schooled and has never lived anywhere other than at home.  He lives at home, he was home schooled, he calls his mother Molly, and he proclaims them as best friends.  All of this is not that big of a problem, unless you only have one friend, and it is your mother. 

The journey of this movie has John dropped into this dynamic like an A-Bomb.  It seems at the outset that John and Molly are made for each other, but perhaps the relationship between John and Cyrus just wasn't meant to be.  It is blatantly obvious that the relationship between Cyrus and his mother is bizarre.  The filmmakers never lend it to a sexual inappropriate level, which I commend.  It is so easy to get laughs from weird sex stuff.  Oedipus is present, but it is more like Oedipus just really, really liked his mom, instead of "liked-her" liked her. 

This is much more of a drama, then a comedy, and it plays well.  Hell, it plays GREAT!  There are funny moments...some really funny moments!  Much of the success, whether in drama or in laughs, is due to Reilly and Hill's portrayals of their characters.  Jonah Hill showed us in Get Him To The Greek that he does have some acting chops.  Folks thought he would always be the goofy fat kid we met in Superbad or perhaps even earlier in Campus Ladies (if you haven't seen this, TRACK IT DOWN!)  Jonah Hill can act.  I believe that he will be a powerhouse as both a comedic and dramatic actor as time goes on.  And my calling him the "goofy fat kid," well Jonah, I hope you don't take offense.  The Reel Rhino tips the scales just this side of the weight of a real rhino....I empathize, not sympathize! Hill has a good head for picking parts.  He passed on the comedic side-kick role in Transformers 2 and he has gone with much more meaningful parts.  Let's just hope he continues with such smarts and chops.

I love the mumblecorp method of showing you a slice of real life and I think it is 100% effective here.  Yes, the slice of life you see is filled with slightly eccentric characters, but it plays like real life nonetheless.

Reel Rhino gives this 4.5 out of 5 horns.  Cyrus is a great movie to watch because it is different from most movies out there today.  This was released limited-wide in 454 theaters, most likely because of the art house feel, but it's gross to date is well over $6 million and I think as word of mouth spreads, the box office for this will grow. 

Speaking of word of mouth, please share the blog with friends, and you can do so now by using the share buttons beneath this post.  Spread the word on Reel Rhino and spread the word on Cyrus. 

By the way...Inception beat Salt this weekend, $43.5 mil to $36.5 million...go Chris Nolan! Congratulations again on a fine film!  Inception is currently at 86% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and is holding fast at #3 on the IMDB Top 250 with over 70,000 votes cast! That is something and I think that we will remember Inception for a long, long time.

Until next time...take care!


No comments:

Post a Comment