Monday, January 24, 2011

Miles of Cyrus

These days, it is a sad fact of life that John C. Reilly only stars in comedies, despite the facts of his not being funny and his being very good at soulful dramatic acting. But whatever. If that’s what he wants to do with his career, so be it. Cyrus is a comedy – the quote from Peter Travers on the poster tells us so, because that man knows everything. Oh, one problem here: Cyrus isn’t funny. I suppose I should’ve guessed that the poster might be telling porkies, since it expects us to swallow the idea that Marisa Tomei somehow managed to give birth to Jonah Hill, but you trust a movie poster, don’t you? Hanging there innocuously in the cinema hallway, battling for attention with all its comrades. You swallow what it tells you. If you like what it tells you, you go and see it. Cyrus tells me “Marisa Tomei”, so I see it.

Not only is Cyrus not funny in the slightest – to be fair, I’m unsure precisely how funny it’s intended to be; just because Peter Travers found your film hilarious doesn’t mean he intended it kindly – it’s also one of the strangest films I’ve seen in the last year. Not in terms of the plot, which unfolds in exactly the distressingly obvious way you’d expect it to, or even in terms of the acting, which, to give these people their due, is perfectly acceptable, because these are perfectly acceptable thespians (even Jonah Hill, who might be picking projects that suggest he’s a horrendous human being, but who I actually quite like in his strangely mumbling way). No, all this is fine, in its completely boring way, but it’s all filtered through the most excruciatingly long style you’ll ever encounter. 

It’s hard to explain what I mean, because I’m not even talking about the dreadful camerawork, which wants Cyrus to be a handheld indie film even though it’s as glossy as anything and the script and acting is all pitched at Mainstream Hollywood Movie level. The best way to capture what I'm trying to say might be to borrow Nick Davis’ use of the phrase “dead air” – Cyrus, basically, is dead air. Almost every scene feels stretched to infinity, but not even because nothing happens – they’re talking, always talking, but what they’re saying, they’ve said before, or even if they haven’t said it before, you’ve heard it before in another movie. Cyrus is one of those films that mistakes uncomfortable situations for humour, instead of actually making them funny, and so when we’re clearly supposed to be rolling in the aisles at the wide-eyed looks Jonah Hill gives to John C. Reilly behind Marisa Tomei’s back, we are in fact pulling our own eyes out of their sockets.

Makin' music - NOT Whoopee
As such, it’s actually quite an interesting – in theory only; the film is abominable, in case I haven’t made that clear yet – move for Reilly and Hill to have made. From the outside, I figured it for another Apatowian (it’s 3am, I am allowed to invent adjectives) fratpack movie, since both actors have made that sort their bag of late. But there aren’t any fart jokes, or sexual innuendos (beyond an intentionally woeful dinner table scene, and those are decidedly nuendos), because, well, there aren’t any jokes in Cyrus. But this is actually supposed to be a “mumblecore” movie, which rather makes sense, because despite all the talking there’s so little to the script here I have to wonder if one ever existed at all. It's hard to develop any kind of intelligent critique on a film that isn't merely without intelligence, but seemingly even without a brain, which might explain this flippant piece that I've garbled out in the middle of the night. But I could just as easily call Cyrus a Greek tragedy, and if I was as famous and respected as Peter Travers I’d probably land that quote on the poster, because Cyrus is, in its own excruciating way, a bit like a piece of true modern art: it can mean whatever you want it to mean.

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