Jonah Hill Steals Sneakers; Affleck’s Murderous Lawman: Movies

Kate Hudson and Casey Affleck
Kate Hudson and Casey Affleck in the movie "The Killer Inside Me." The film opens June 18. Source: IFC Films via Bloomberg

Mark and Jay Duplass have put their idiosyncratic, indie stamp on their first Hollywood film.

“Cyrus” mixes big-name stars and small-budget techniques in a rough-around-the-edges dramedy about a lonely divorced man (John C. Reilly) whose affair with a sexy single mom (Marisa Tomei) is endangered by her clingy 21-year-old son (Jonah Hill).

The Duplass brothers have been leaders of the mumblecore movement, which produces ultra-cheap, improvisational movies using young non-professional actors. Their first feature, “The Puffy Chair,” cost $15,000.

While “Cyrus” represents a significant move toward the mainstream, the writer/directors haven’t forgotten their roots. Their unconventional methods included shooting “Cyrus” in chronological order, improvising much of the dialogue, filming long uninterrupted takes and flooding the set with light so the actors could move around freely.

Reilly plays homely John, who’s still single and adrift seven years after his divorce. His supportive ex-wife (Catherine Keener) urges him to join her and her fiance at a party, where he meets Molly, a spunky massage therapist who lives with her slacker son Cyrus. When their affair gets serious, Cyrus tries to sabotage their relationship by faking nightmares, stealing sneakers and telling John lies about his mother.

Lawn Wrestling

Cyrus, who dabbles as a New Age musician, eventually moves out and John moves in. But the tension between them continues and climaxes at a wedding, where they end up wrestling on the lawn. John and Molly then split up, and John moves into a small apartment, where he’s again lonely and miserable until Cyrus pays him an unexpected visit.

Reilly is appropriately forlorn and Hill is suitably weird, though they both got on my nerves after a while. Tomei, with her combination of vulnerability and exuberance, provides welcome relief.

“Cyrus,” from Fox Searchlight Pictures, opens tomorrow in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: **1/2

‘Killer Inside Me’

Lou Ford is one of the creepiest, most schizophrenic movie characters I’ve ever seen. One minute, the small-town Texas sheriff’s deputy is softly playing the piano, the next he’s bashing a lover’s head with his fist.

Ford is the central figure in “The Killer Inside Me,” a skin-crawling film noir based on Jim Thompson’s famous pulp novel. Michael Winterbottom’s faithful rendition is extremely discomforting to watch, which is probably just the way Thompson would have wanted it.

Casey Affleck, a far more interesting actor than his better-known brother Ben, plays the baby-faced, murderous sociopath. Scarred by a hellish childhood, he takes out his torment on the women closest to him -- his girlfriend Amy (Kate Hudson) and a local prostitute (Jessica Alba) with whom he has a sadistic affair.

Meanwhile, he gets caught up in a scandal involving the town’s biggest builder (Ned Beatty) and his wayward son. The district attorney (Simon Baker) and a union leader (Elias Koteas) are hot on his trail, but Ford enjoys the cat-and-mouse game. He kills for convenience and without remorse, often with a sickening smirk.

The scenes in which Ford brutally beats his girlfriend and the hooker are so graphic they border on obscene. This movie is strictly for those with cast-iron stomachs and a taste for the perverse.

“The Killer Inside Me,” from IFC Films, opens tomorrow in New York and June 25 in Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. Rating: **

What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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