Funny and creepy
A good idea is frittered away in this first substantial feature by two brothers whose previous ultra-low-budget films have been part of the quasi-underground indie Mumblecore movement.
As I watched the energy drain from its last half hour I was aching for a bit of blood, a machete, maybe or at least a filleting knife. I never thought I'd find myself wishing for a film to be less restrained and more commercial - maybe just crasser - but Cyrus wastes a great premise: what happens when mid-life love affair collides with Oedipal rage?
That's the problem faced by recently divorced John (the likeable Reilly) when he takes up with Molly (Tomei) after they meet at a party. (She catches him peeing in the bushes and says "Nice penis!"; we get the sense that the Duplass brothers don't know a lot about women).
John wants more than a one-night stand so he traces her home address, where he meets Cyrus (Hill), her overweight, glassy-eyed 21-year-old son who is socially awkward or suffering from some form of arrested development or something much worse. An unemployable layabout who composes unbearable music on a bank of synthesisers, he lends a whole new meaning to the idea of a spoilt child - and not just because he weighs 120kg.
Far from being hostile to John and the change in their domestic circumstances his arrival precipitates, Cyrus professes delight - and expresses it in squirmingly inappropriate ways. Then he starts pulling rank on John - his first salvo involves stealing his shoes - and we realise he's going to do whatever it takes to reclaim Molly's undivided attention.
It's a great premise but the Duplasses don't seem to know where to take it. The three actors do a great job with a script that is both improbably creepy and yet - as anyone who's tried to blend two families will know - has a core of precise emotional verisimilitude. But it's hampered by a frustrating lack of nerve: you want it to go for the jugular but it's determined to be likeable. The result is that an entertaining ride, ambles to a disappointingly ingratiating halt.
John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener
Jay and Mark Duplass
M (offensive language, sexual references)