Cyrus (2010)

Rated R. Our Ratings: V-1; L-5; S/N-5. Length: 1 hour 30 min.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious
or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not
insist on its own way; it is not irritable or
resentful…
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I
thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;
when I became an adult, I put an end to
childish ways.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5; 11

After John has arranged for Jamie to meet Molly and Cyrus, the latter takes their picture.

2010 Fox Searchlight Pictures

John (John C. Reilly) is so down in the dumps that his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener) and husband to be Tim (Matt Walsh) are so worried that they cajole him into attending a party in the hope of meeting a woman. However, at the party his fumbling attempts to talk with a couple of women lead nowhere, especially when he accidentally knocks a thermostat off the wall while leaning against it. Accepting a strong drink, he loosens up, but has to urinate out in the bushes, where he is caught by Molly (Marisa Tomei). Instead of turning away from him like the other women, she eases his embarrassment by saying that she had planned to do the same in that very spot. Buoyed in spirit, goes back into the party and puts on a favorite song. Singing and dancing to it, he creates a spectacle, the others looking on, not heeding his call to join in. Then Molly adds her voice, joining him in his ludicrous dancing. The others catch her spirit, and soon the party is jumping with gusto. The night ends with Molly and John making love back at his apartment. When John wakes up next morning there is a note with her telephone number.

John calls her, and is almost surprised when she accepts his offer to a date that night. Molly proves to be as sensitive and loving as when they first met. However, he is puzzled that she will not spend the whole night with him, but gets up instead, telling him that she must get home—but assuring him that she is not married. John follows her, spending the night asleep in his car outside her house. The next day when he goes up to snoop around the house he is surprised by the young man who comes out of the house. The lad (Jonah Hill) introduces himself as Cyrus, and when John asks if Molly lives there, he reveals that he is her son. Staying for supper that night, John is almost grilled in a friendly way by Cyrus, and almost effusively praised. As the days go by, John becomes worried about the intense mother-son relationship, even asking Jamie to go jogging with him in the park where Molly and Cyrus hang out early in the morning taking photographs that Cyrus uses for inspiration in his composing music. He wants her opinion as to whether there is something weird about the pair.

Screenwriter-directors Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass have given us what could have been just another silly summer comedy, as the TV trailers lead us to believe. Instead, their film explores the toxic tactics of a young man used to upset his mother’s relationship with one whom he fears will displace him entirely from her affections. Apparently Cyrus, who uses his “panic attacks” to keep his mother centered on himself, is one of those persons who believe that a person can hold but one person in their heart. How Cyrus, in the words of Luke the evangelist “comes to himself,” makes for an enjoyable evening of watching. In a way, might we regard Cyrus as a prodigal son who never left home?

The film is also about the maturation of John, from his early depression because he is all alone to the point where he can rationally make the decision about whether or not to stay in a situation in which three is definitely a crowd, and still go on with his life. As we see by his many visits with and telephone calls to Jamie seeking her advice and support, John himself at first is more similar to Cyrus than he realizes. This is a film that invites us to laugh with rather than at its characters, suggesting that reconciliation can be possible even in the most unpromising of situations. Adults with grown children who have entered into second marriages will especially resonate with this film. Adult children, even those far more mature than Cyrus, can be a problem for a new spouse, so that both the parent and the new partner need a large measure of discernment (something which Molly apparently lacks) tact, patience, and love.

For Reflection and Discussion 1. What did you think of Cyrus and John when you first met them? In need of lots of help? How are they actually very similar to each other, at least in the first part of the film?

2. How does the old photo of Molly and Cyrus reveal that she is part of Cyrus’s problem? Do we see any evidence that she is aware of her complicity?

3. How is Jamie an agent of grace, possessed of unusual sensitivity and compassion? And although we see little of her private life, how is Tim also a gracious person? (Can you imagine most ex-spouses inviting their ex to their weddings?)

4. What is it that changes Cyrus and motivates him to do what he does at the climax of the film? How does show that he has embraced the kind of love preached by the apostle Paul? How is real love always a matter of letting go?

5. Some critics have complained that the resolution is too simplistic, but is this a clinical film or a summer entertainment? What do you think lies ahead for the three? What will Cyrus, and also Molly and John, probably have to go through if they are to continue to mature?