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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Cyrus - UPDATED

December 13th, 2010

Cyrus - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Of all of the limited releases that were released this past summer, very few were able to expand wide enough to claim some slice of mainstream success. Cyrus was one of the few exceptions and it managed to ride its strong cast, and equally strong reviews to more than $7 million at the box office. Will it be able to improve upon that number on the home market? And is it worth checking out, or perhaps even buying?

The Movie

When we first meet John, he's being told by his ex-wife, Jamie, that she is getting married to her boyfriend, Tim. John hasn't adjusted well to single life and Jamie wants to help him out by inviting him to a party she and Tim are throwing. Despite objecting, he goes. Both Jamie and Tim insist he tries to meet a new woman, but just as it seems hopeless, he runs into Molly. There's a connection, despite the circumstances of their initial meeting, and things are looking up for John. That is until he meets Cyrus, Molly's son.

Cyrus is a slacker who really should have left home by now, but can't leave the comfort of his mother. He recognizes in John a threat to this relationship with his mother and begins to undermine John and Molly's romance in rather deceptive ways.

How? Well, I can't go into details without reaching unacceptable spoiler territory.

As far as saying how much the average person will like this film, that's a lot easier to do. The film is written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass, who specialize in the genre of films known as Mumblecore, films like The Puffy Chair and Baghead. They tend to have similar themes, as well as similar styles. For instance, they deal with people in their 20s who haven't yet matured enough to enter adult life. The plots tend to center around getting through everyday life in normal, if extremely awkard, circumstances. There is usually a very naturalistic look to the movie with hand held camera work. There is usually very little written dialogue, so the actors are mostly improving their lines.

This film has all of that, with a couple of important distinctions. Firstly, Mumblecore films tend to be ultralow budget, while Cyrus had a budget of $7 million. That's hardly a huge budget, but it is only an order of magnitude lower than the average big studio release. By comparison, The Puffy Chair cost $15,000 to make. A lot of this budget likely went to hiring a much higher caliber cast, with three of the four main actors having earned Oscar nominations in the past. (Marisa Tomei has earned three Oscar nominations, including a win for My Cousin Vinny.) So the actors are a lot more experienced than the usual for this type of movie. The actors are also a lot more experienced, as in older. The movies are mostly about people in their twenties, while three of the four main actors here are in their forties. (Actually, Catherine Keener is in her fifties, which is a little shocking to me.) Of course, the characters tend to have emotional issues that reveal that they are not as mature as the actors portraying them.

If you are a fan of Mumblecore, this is one of the better examples of the genre and it is certainly worth checking out. On the other hand, if you hate the genre, I don't think this is going to win you over. It is a good introduction to the genre and as long as you don't mind a healthy dose of awkwardness in your movies, it should please most people.

The Extras

On the other hand, the DVD is not going to make a lot of people happy. The only extras on the DVD are two deleted scenes, which can be watched with or without intros by the writer / director team of Jay and Mark Duplass. They are worth checking out, but considering how well the movie did in limited release, I was expecting more.


Since last week's, the Blu-ray arrived, so I thought I'd update it with the details. I wasn't expecting a lot since the DVD had so little and it was a limited release; however, I was pleasently surprised to find a few additional, if short, extras. These start with an 8-minute featurette with the two directors discussing the making of the movie, what it was like to go from a $50,000 budget to a $7 million budget, dealing with a crew of one hundred when you are used to only working with ten or so, and trying to get their kids to share the blue flowers. Music Mash-Up has John and Jonah playing music on the keyboard interlaced with quotes from the movie. There is a three-minute behind-the-scenes at SXSW featurette. And finally there are two interviews, one with John and the other with Jonah. The disc is also BD-Live enabled.

As for the film's technical presentation... it's a dialogue driven indie film. And with those caveats, it's a good looking film. The colors are good, the details are sharp, the blacks are deep, but this is not reference material by any stretch of the imagination. Likewise, the dialogue is clear, but your surround sound speakers will not get a workout.

The Blu-ray is better than I thought it would be, but it does cost 40% more than the DVD, which is a little higher than I would like for this type of release.

The Verdict

Cyrus is not the kind of film that everyone will enjoy, as its style and subject matter can be uncomfortable at times. However, those that are into the Mumblecore genre should be pleased enough with the movie to want to buy it. For those, the DVD is the better deal over the Blu-ray.

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Filed under: Video Review, Cyrus