Movie review of "Cyrus"

“Don’t You Want Me?”: Isotopes and the Attainment of Happiness in Cyrus
by Clarissa Olivarez
As I was walking out of the theater after watching Cyrus, I heard people around me saying things like, “Oedipus Complex” and “You have to be openly honest in relationships for them to work out.” But, this movie was so much more than full-grown boys wrestling with their mothers and leaving our metaphorical doors open through our own vulnerability – at the core of this film, we must realize that both Cyrus (played by Jonah Hill) and John (played by John C. Reilly) have unhealthy attachments to the women in their lives that must be repaired in order for any personal growth to occur. Cyrus fears being separated from his mother, Molly (Marisa Tomei) and John constantly seeks answers and advice from his ex-wife of seven years, Jamie (Catherine Keener). It is because of this fear of being alone (which manifests itself through this dependence on others) that John and Cyrus are both fundamentally blocked from moving on without seeking consultation and/or comfort from
these respective women.
At the beginning of the film, Jamie walks into John’s unkempt house, which looks more like
a frat-house, with empty pizza boxes scattered on tables and loud music blasting from the stereo, only to find him, on his bed, masturbating to online porn – as if we didn’t see that coming. Jamie has come to tell John that she will be re-marrying a man named Tim. Jamie then suggests John go to a party with her and Tim where there will presumably be “intellectually stimulating people.” John unwillingly goes to this party and, at Jamie’s suggestion, begins to scout out potential dates, whereupon, he tells Jamie, “You can’t follow me, too.” However, throughout the rest of the movie, we see that as he pursues the soon-to-be-revealed Molly, it is John who constantly “follows” Jamie’s lead, as if she were his life coach and not his ex-wife. When John finds his Adidas missing from Molly’s house, he frantically calls Jamie at 1:30 AM and asks her to meet Molly and Cyrus in the park to see if he is being paranoid about Cyrus stealing his shoes. Later, when Joh
n packs up Cyrus’s clothing in preparation for his move, he finds his shoes and once again goes straight to Jamie to tell her that, “There hasn’t been an honest moment” between Cyrus and John, yet. During each meeting, Tim is pushed into the background as John vents his anxieties about his relationship with Molly (and Cyrus) to Jamie.
The same pattern reveals itself when we first meet Cyrus and see how this boy has become overly-dependent on his mother – we see this as all three eat dinner and Molly picks the peppers out of his plate one-by-one. And let’s not forget that after John finds a photograph of Molly breast-feeding an oversized Cyrus, we see Cyrus go into the bathroom while Molly is showering and hear them sing together.
It is clear that both John and Cyrus wish to be viewed as adults, but their consistent childish behavior (e.g., getting drunk too fast and lying to each other about panic attacks) only reveals how much they have to learn about being alone with themselves. When Cyrus asks John “who he is” and not “what he does” the audience has to wonder – ‘Who is John without Jamie (or Molly, for that matter)?’ and ‘Who is Cyrus without Molly?’ The night before Jamie’s wedding, Cyrus writes that John is “going down,” and once Cyrus falls asleep, John sneaks into his room to tell him that if he does anything suspicious he will “knock [Cyrus] out.” These threats seem more akin to sibling rivalry than anything else. While at the wedding, Cyrus approaches John in bathroom, after seeing John and Molly share affectionate looks, and says to him, “You’re never going to take her away from me.” Both end up fighting like children, on the lawn, in the middle of the rece
ption. It is not until Jamie calls out to John and gives him a disgusted look that John realizes that he was out of line. He is still dependent on her approval and guidance; yet, his fear of being alone soon shows itself when he tells Molly that he is afraid to continue their relationship because Cyrus will “wreck it.” Molly will always have Cyrus, but John will no longer be able to flee to Jamie every chance he gets.
In the end, it is Cyrus’s musical project that illuminates the reality of both men. His album title, Isotopes: A Story of Ones and Twos shows three figures on the cover. As isotopes, we can then easily recognize that both John and Cyrus fundamentally possess similar properties in their character, such as neediness and immaturity. We see Cyrus and John sitting on the same step – on equal ground – as they both begin to see that their move towards adulthood is taking place at this very moment – through honesty and their growing understanding of what happiness means. The conclusion shows that Cyrus, in his young age, has become even more of a man than John as he promptly leads John to Molly after John claims he isn’t ready to talk to her yet. Cyrus has made it possible for all three to live together and John’s fears of confrontation seem to dissipate once Molly waves him inside. In the end, we are reminded of what we already know, but what we all too often forget –
that it’s better to have a small network of people to depend on, rather than to have one person whom you unnaturally cling to and run the risk of jeopardizing the potential happiness of others.

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