Mommie Dearest

In a world of disposable vocabulary, the word “Mumblecore” has been invented.  It means semi-improvised anti-establishment (i.e. studio financed) movies about the youth culture, centering on post-college drifters who wander aimlessly looking for relationships, signifying nothing and mumbling all the way. Two self-appointed gurus of this regrettable “movement” who have made a tiny ripple on the film festival circuit are Jay and Mark Duplass, two brothers from Louisiana who write and direct small, forgettable throwaways few people have ever heard of, like The Puffy Chair and Baghead.  Sometimes they act in them, too.  Last year, Mark played a married thirtysomething who accepts a bet to win a porn competition by sleeping with his best buddy in a boring bomb called Humpday. In a desperate move to broaden their limited horizons, the Duplass siblings have now made Cyrus, their first feature with name actors and a small but respectable mainstream Hollywood budget.  Pray that Mumblecore is dead.  Cyrus goes nowhere fast, but at least there’s less mumbling than in most Judd Apatow movies or in movies about zit-faced teenagers in dating hell, usually played by Michael Cera and Paul Dano.

It still has a long way to go before the term Mumblecore (which sounds like a Harry Potter major at Hogwart’s) can be confused with the term Class Act.

It still has a long way to go before the term Mumblecore (which sounds like a Harry Potter major at Hogwart’s) can be confused with the term Class Act.  Opening shot: John C. Reilly scratching his jock itch.  He plays John, a human amoeba nearing 40 who suffers from loneliness, social rejection and terminal depression.  Although his ex-wife Jamie (a wasted Catherine Keener) dumped him seven years ago for reasons that are obvious, she has remained his confidante and sympathetic best friend. Now that she’s getting married again, John is plunged into panic and self-pitying borderline catatonia.  Forced to accompany Jamie and her fiancé to a party, he gets drunk on Red Bull and caught urinating in the front yard by Molly (Marisa Tomei), who finds him charming and sexy for reasons only the Duplass brothers can (but don’t) explain.  One of the film’s many problems is that the relationships are so unlikely that nothing else in it is ever remotely believable. 

Sex comes fast, and John is ready for commitment, but Molly always leaves mysteriously before dawn.  John stalks her to her house and discovers she lives with an obese, mentally challenged 21-year-old son named Cyrus (played by creepy Jonah Hill, a low-brow junior-league Seth Rogan, who is turning up in a lot of alleged “new age” teen comedies like Superbad and the abominably unfunny Funny People).  Cyrus composes electronic music, joins his Mom when she’s taking a shower, and has definite ideas about her sex life.  “You deserve someone who can love you in the way I can’t,” he says, and it’s time to call the child welfare police.  Wary of their open-door relationship, John moves in with Molly and Cyrus, until the man-child steals his shoes and enters their bedroom in the middle of the night with nightmares to get attention.  John realizes his adversary is jealous, emotionally disturbed, and hell-bent on defeating his rival, waging a calculated war of wills to control the affection of the woman they both love. These people are so weird that although the film is labeled a comedy, it hovers on the dark side in so many shadows that it is rarely amusing.  Yet it never has the courage to fully explore the havoc a real Oedipus complex can wreak on the lives of real adults.  How these two oddballs resolve their differences and make a clumsy stab at bonding gives the film a  soupcon of hope that is even more preposterous than the rest of the absurd plot maneuvers that drag a 30-minute idea into a 92-minute ordeal. 

Jonah Hill has a wacko stare and a disturbing candor about sex that causes more revulsion than anxiety, and when John C. Reilly, who is no matinee idol himself, declares “I am Shrek”, there is no contest.  The tenderness the Duplass brothers keep inserting to make the audience feel better about wasting so much valuable time never really works because it distracts for all potential conflicts.  The contrived optimism renders Cyrus little more than a modest, unmemorable sitcom.  In 92 minutes, you could buy a convertible, meet a friend for lunch, plant a peony bed, or get your teeth cleaned.   Or go to Cyrus,


Running time 92 minutes
Written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass
Starring John C. Rielly, Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener, Marisa Tomei

1 Eyeball out of 4


Mommie Dearest