Jay and Mark Duplass have come a long way in a short time, and you need only listen to their screening introductions to feel it. When they introduced their new film Cyrus at its Sundance premiere in January, they thanked the festival for giving them their careers (it was Sundance where their short films and later their features, would get the attention of Hollywood). When they introduced Cyrus at SXSW, they commented on how they had spent so many weekends watching movies in the Paramount Theatre (the brothers honed their craft in Austin before moving to New York). On Wednesday night at BAM, while introducing Cyrus, they mentioned they had spent years making films only two miles away from that night’s venue (before moving to Los Angeles, they spent some time making shorts in Brooklyn). The examples go on and on, and I’m sure it’s just as heartfelt when they visit New Orleans (their native city) or when they screen in L.A. (their current home). But the sentiment is all the same: they are thankful for the success they have, and luckily for us, their talent continues to grow.
Cyrus, which opens on June 18, is their first studio-financed feature film. Like I wrote after seeing it at Sundance, the film maintains their DIY look-and-feel but is also a step up. They have a cast of seasoned pros, including John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei, telling the story of two single adults falling in love despite their conflicted emotional baggage. It was after seeing the film a second time that its strengths started to resonate even deeper. Reilly’s character, also named John, starts the film as a “borderline desperate” man trying his best to move on from his divorce. He meets Marisa Tomei’s Molly, and she appears to be the “sex angel” of his dreams. What’s the catch? She has a 21-year old son named Cyrus (Jonah Hill), who not only lives with her, but also appears to perpetuate an unhealthy bond. Pretty soon, it’s Molly who is the “borderline desperate” character, and you realize that what connects her with John, is their shared emotional trauma. For a film so hilarious and charming, Cyrus is also sadly poignant.
The film had its New York Premiere as the Opening Night selection of the BAMcinemaFEST, and it arguably played just as loud and funny and big as it did during its Sundance premiere at the Eccles in January. I can only hope that the big laughs in the film (of which there are many) will not be lost on audiences who see it outside the context of a festival or premiere. This will only be helped by the presence of John C. Reilly, who has always straddled the line between funny and sad (watch his performance in Magnolia to see a great example). Jonah Hill, on the other hand, is only known as a bombastic comedy actor, but this performance is easily his most muted and mature to date. It’s a testament to the likable and thoughtful nature of Duplass storytelling: people trust them and love them, because they’ve come a long way and they haven’t forgotten it.