“Cyrus” is one of those quiet, independent comedy-dramas that works almost in spite of itself. For the first half hour, the narrative seems to be meander aimlessly, like the audience is parachuted into a story already in progress without being clear on why any of it matters. However, by the time the central dynamics are established and the inevitable conflicts are set up, things just seem to come together: In particular, the chemistry between John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei goes a long way towards selling a rather presumptuous story: Reilly’s character starts off defined by his lowdown narcissism and irresponsibility, so it’s hard to get away from the feeling that he doesn’t deserve the warm, luminous Tomei, who fills the screen with an airy presence that’s as lovely as it is welcome. Jonah Hill is her overly enmeshed adult son, who gets between them as their romance starts to blossom, which makes for an interesting dilemma rife with cinematic potential that’s all but soured by Hill’s intrusive, superficial performance. However, whenever Reilly and Tomei are free to explore the ups and downs of their burgeoning relationship, the movie becomes a quietly compelling little gem that should be seen at least once.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)