“Been in kind of a dark, existential place, to tell you the truth and then… I met your mom.”
The marketing and casting of Cyrus created expectations for an offbeat comedy, confusing audiences who received more of an unsettling indie flick, written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass. John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill both offer surprising performances, Hill through understated creepiness, whilst Reilly flexes his nuanced acting abilities in role of an affable, neurotic and world-weary man with hints of the star turn he would take a few years later in Wreck-It Ralph. Marisa Tomei deftly makes the unusual central relationships believable. The film flounders structurally, taking over an hour of its 91-minute running time to set up the conflict between John and Cyrus, leaving its final act feeling hurried and lacking in any real depth. On the other hand, the time devoted to John and Molly’s relationship ensures that the audience remains invested in its success. Cyrus flirts with a darker tone but never really commits, resulting in a pleasantly unusual film without the edge it might have had in different hands.
“There’s nothing wrong with my life. I should be happy. But there’s this sadness… and I don’t know where it comes from.”
For many years I have described my favourite genre as the “connection genre”, a subset of which is “reconnection”. Blue Jay is a gentle black-and-white indie drama in which childhood sweethearts run into each other by chance twenty years later and spend some time reconnecting. The performances are critical with just two actors: Mark Duplass (who also wrote the script) and Sarah Paulson (who is exceptional). Blue Jay captures the casual intimacy and understanding between former lovers who knew each other so well, in addition to the ease — and underlying danger — of falling back into those patterns through nostalgia. Although the film feels largely romantic in nature, heartbreak is an ever-present threat. The believable, endearing chemistry between the leads is aided by improvisation around a loosely outlined script, allowing the actors to react naturalistically to one another. My only real criticism is a revelation late in the film which feels unnecessary and somewhat undermines the universality of much of what came before.
“If I had a dream that didn’t come true, I could at least be pissed off at the world. Instead I’m just pissed off at myself.”
The third outing for director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, Tully moves away from overt comedy, instead drawing out humour from the absurd repetitive reality of parenthood. Its grounded first third contains rarely depicted images in quick succession, like an exhausted Marlo attached to a whirring dual breast pump or spilt milk worthy of tears when she forgets to seal a medela bag. However, treating the film solely as a lens on motherhood is somewhat reductive, with its wider commentary on finding a place in the world for the life one has chosen. Unfortunately the story flounders after the halfway mark and its conclusion manages to be both contrived and predictable for a seasoned filmgoer.