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CYRUS – Now in theaters

Molly (Marisa Tomei) meets John (John C. Reilly) when she stumbles upon him peeing in the backyard at a party. She’s more amused than shocked, adding that she herself was about to squat in the bushes for a pee, and so their charmingly awkward, middle-aged romance begins. Neither Molly nor John have been in a relationship since their respective divorces; John’s was 7 years ago with ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener) and Molly hasn’t seen anyone since her first husband split when she gave birth to their son, Cyrus, who’s now 21 and living at home.

Cyrus and Molly have a special relationship, as in especially close and especially weird. The film does well to present it from the point of view of an outsider like John, though John is only wary of the mother-son duo until he falls too in love to care. But as soon as he discovers that Cyrus is more than just a special case, that he’s really out to sabotage his relationship with Molly, John decides to fight fire with fire. The mini battles that ensure are funny, to be sure; Cyrus fakes sympathy-inducing panic attacks and flips John off while he’s hugging his mom, but trapped in the middle of all of this is Molly, a one-dimensional rag doll of a character tossed between the two men. No matter how crazy Cyrus acts, she’s capable only of loving and pitying him, leading us to wonder if the apple hasn’t, perhaps, fallen far from the tree.

But when John doesn’t wonder about it the movie changes from a small, quietly complicated story about three people struggling to adjust to new relationships to the archetypal story of two men duking it out over the damsel in distress. Nuance gives way to type: Cyrus is the psycho and Molly is the well-meaning but clueless female, though John, who strikes out in anger the way a real live person would, manages to remain believable throughout. Towards the end the film tries to break through some of its quirks and restore the characters to real people again, but its hastily done. Cyrus finally realizes the error of his ways and apologizes, but after spending the whole film being an asshole its hard to be as forgiving as John is. The attempt at a meaningful resolution comes too suddenly, too late and its too little to be convincing, but performances from John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill are good enough to keep it from being a total let down.