January 26, 2010 / 3:19 AM / 10 years ago

Reilly, Tomei stuck in ponderous drama

Cast members Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei and John C. Reilly (L-R) talk at the premiere of "Cyrus" during the 2010 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 23, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - A romance laced with psychological poison, “Cyrus” is a well-performed but superficial drama of emotional co-dependency that is unlikely to venture past the select-site/festival circuit.

This Fox Searchlight drama, starring John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei, had its world premiere here at Sundance and aroused tepid admiration, heightened by the general “festival effect” of audiences overreacting because they’re at, well, a big-time festival and, lo, stars are around.

In this insightful but ultimately ponderous entertainment, Reilly and Tomei star as love-starved adults whose newfound relationship blossoms. It’s a welcome revival from their respective personal doldrums. They soon have that “glow” about them. However, their relationship is challenged from an outsider, namely, Tomei’s needy son, 21-year-old Cyrus. The house-bound mama’s boy is not about to let another man take Mommy’s attention and love. Cyrus (Jonah Hill) is not to be odd man out, or even the least of the threesome.

Sounds a bit like a Stephen King thing, but, unfortunately, “Cyrus” is no “Cujo,” and the drama meanders into predictable tedium.

Screenwriter-directors Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass have skimmed the surface perversity of a troubled mother-son relationship and have looped it around a romance between two very needy people. They’ve also crammed in some unnerving Oedipal oddities, but don’t seem to have the maturity to use them beyond cheap dramatic titillations.

The film’s charms are largely attributable to the spry ensemble cast. Reilly’s hangdog wiles and honest vulnerability is the film’s highlight. Tomei is sympathetic as a mother who can’t cut the cord with her son, while Catherine Keener is appealing as Reilly’s nervy and supportive ex-wife.

Overall, “Cyrus” is more a clinical enactment than a complex human drama and ultimately just droops in predictability and easy outcomes.

Technical contributions are solid. Production designer Annie Spitz conveys the underlying loneliness and insecurities of the characters but, unfortunately, there is not much beneath the surface in this ultimately shallow entertainment.

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