Think of "Cyrus" as the Duplasses for the masses, as the keenly observant sibs upgrade their scrappy, relationship-based formula to work with movie stars and a Fox Searchlight-size budget without sacrificing the raw, naturalistic feel of their first two features, "The Puffy Chair" and "Baghead." The duo's latest study in interpersonal awkwardness takes its name from the only obstacle blocking a budding relationship between single-again fortysomethings John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei: Cyrus (a hilarious Jonah Hill), the co-dependent son unwilling to share his mother's attention. Expect this modest yet eminently commercial comedy to score the brothers more studio work.
Above all, this project allows Mark and Jay Duplass, masters of the embarrassing moment, to enlist A-list actors for their improv-based style; the co-directors provided their cast a rough script which the thesps are freely encouraged to personalize on camera. Though Reilly and Hill are no strangers to off-the-cuff comedy, ad-libbing for directors such as Judd Apatow and Adam McKay, the fact that "Cyrus" offers only the thinnest strand of a plot allows the Duplasses to be more focused in their direction.
From the opening scene, in which Jamie (Catherine Keener) walks in to find her ex-husband, John (Reilly), in a compromising position, to the constant string of surprises surrounding Cyrus' character, there's something refreshingly universal about the situations represented here.
In many ways, the success of a Duplass film is measured not in laughter, but by how much the audience winces through scenes of uncomfortable recognition. The helmers specialize in passive-aggressive behavior, unlocking truths long absent from scripted comedy simply by allowing their higher-def Red cameras to linger in closeup on how characters react to certain situations (too frequently ruptured by focal adjustments and mini-zooms that give everything a certain pseudo-amateur homemovie feel).
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