| GET OFF MY MOM, ETC.: John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill. |
IMAGE: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Stick with therapy long enough and the rush of emotional purging will grade into salutary exhaustion—finally tired of your own miserable company, you’ll be ready to become a better friend to yourself and just let go and go live. A number of recent films about men—Old Joy, Momma’s Man and Humpday, to name a few of the best—graph a similar trajectory by following floundering sad sacks through the process of getting better by getting over themselves. Having entered their own study of befuddled manhood into the dour-dude canon with 2005’s The Puffy Chair, writer-director duo Jay and Mark Duplass raise the stakes with Cyrus by giving equal time to mommy issues and romantic desire, but they seem not to have heard that women, although unburdened by extra meat between their legs, have emotional problems too.
After meeting Molly (Marisa Tomei) at a party and sleeping with her twice in two days, John (John C. Reilly) stealthily follows her home, stakes out her place and discovers that he’s not the creepiest man in her life. That honor goes to Cyrus (Jonah Hill), Molly’s 21-year-old son, roommate, best friend and bathroom buddy. He is unnervingly polite and startlingly articulate—Step Brothers this is not—and he welcomes John’s presence with perfectly reasonable well-mannered leeriness. Molly, on the other hand, is not even the slightest bit jangled by her new boyfriend’s stalking tendencies. John stays for dinner, Cyrus seethes and Molly swoons like the pretty prop she is.
What follows is a moving and subtly disturbing competition for Molly’s affection, as John and Cyrus wage emotional warfare on the woman they both claim to love, each of them prodding her to push the other out of the picture. The Duplasses have nearly superhuman insight into desperate, wheedling men, and it’s a joy to watch Reilly and Hill squirm out of the Apatow gulag and into conflicted characters with actual feelings. They both deliver career performances here, in a battle of wits that is blessedly free of the Focking shenanigans you’d expect from such a conflict. But what the Duplasses do (and don’t do) to Molly is absolutely shameful. She’s a comely vacancy, a mother/lover conundrum adjudicated by two smart and smartly written men; by the film’s conclusion, she’s invisible, an abstract spoil of war. She clearly has problems, and she needs help. I hope she finds another movie—maybe one without so many fucking sad guys, a movie directed by someone even slightly curious about people with vaginas. R.