Film Review: Cedar Rapids

A film about an insurance convention sounds like an unappealing prospect, but Cedar Rapids is a lot more fun that the description suggests.

Tim Lippe is an insurance salesman who is happy coasting at his Wisconsin workplace. When an accident occurs, Tim is sent to present at an insurance conference in Cedar Rapids. Nervous about the responsibility laid on his shoulders, Tim is taken under the wing of three insurance sales veterans…

Cedar Rapids is a comedy that works well for the majority of the time. The film is not relentlessly hilarious, but the often crude humour is amusing. Writer Phil Johnston keeps the humour accessible, with the odd in-joke thrown in for good measure. It is only towards the end that the mood starts to wane.

For the most part, director Miguel Artera maintains a light atmosphere which makes it permissible to laugh at everything. Some of the jokes are not political correct, but this is the fun of Cedar Rapids. In the final third of the film there is a shift to more serious matters, when emotion overrules comedy. This works fine, as the film never becomes too overindulgent. However, it is the comedy that is the real draw.

Narrative-wise, Cedar Rapids is a little formulaic. Tim’s journey ends the way it is supposed to, and all ends are neatly tied. On occasion, the film does not do what is expected of it. This is particularly true in the case of Bree, who seems to have been introduced for a certain purpose, but leads the film somewhere else.

Tim is the type of character that is often featured in comedies. He is set in his ways, but also very naive to the world outside his small bubble. The protagonist is sometimes laughed at, but more often than not will share in the humour. Supporting characters are developed well, and go beyond the caricatures they could have become.

Ed Helms is a great comedy actor, showing more of the same as Tim. The role is not a million miles from Stu in The Hangover, nevertheless it is the type of character Helms plays exceptionally well. John C. Reilly gives a fantastic performance as Dean Ziegler, capturing the larger-than-life nature of the character. Isiah Whitlock Jr. is great as Ronald, bringing humour and intensity to proceedings. Anne Heche seems to have a lot of fun as Joan.

Cedar Rapids is a great comedy for those in the market for something light and fun. The film is unlikely to stay with you, but that surely is the point.

Film Review: Cyrus

Cyrus effectively mixes drama with comedic episodes, producing a thoroughly watchable movie. The style of the film distinguishes itself from many others in the comedy-drama category, resulting in an offbeat picture that is unlikely to set the box office ablaze, but should be enjoyed by all that take a punt on Cyrus.

Divorced John is stuck in a rut until he meets an amazing woman at a party. Things are going well for the pair, until John stats to spend time with her grown-up son Cyrus…

Whilst the trailer suggests Cyrus is a comedy foremost, in reality the film is a drama with comedic interludes. Hopefully this will not deter viewers, as Cyrus is an earnest and believable movie. It is also a film that should resonate with a wide range of cinemagoers, and not just those who may have had similar experiences as the protagonist. Cyrus is really about the complexities of relationships and fitting into a structure; themes that should be universally identifiable.

A major part of what makes the film works so well is the performances by the cast. In a rare leading man role, John C. Reilly gives a great performance as the down-on-his-luck guy looking to make the most of this rare chance of romance. It is refreshing to see a leading man in a romance who is not conventionally good-looking; John’s lack of self-confidence is all the genuine because of this.

Jonah Hill is excellent as dependent son Cyrus. It is a reticent performance; Hill’s deadpan expressions and monotone responses generate a lot of the laughs in Cyrus. Marisa Tomei appears authentic as Molly, mother of Cyrus and object of John’s affection. Catherine Keener also puts in a good performance as John’s ex-wife.

Writer and director team Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass produce a real indie-feel to Cyrus. There is a lot of hand-held camera action, and the sound is at odds with most Hollywood films. The film combines natural sound with a score by Michael Andrews. Some of the scenes between John and Molly feature the dialogue over edited shots of the pair; giving these sequences a dream-like effect. Whilst the camera work is at times distracting, on the whole the less-polished approach seems appropriate given the nature of the film.

If you are expecting a out-and-out comedy, Cyrus will come as a disappointment. But as a drama with hints of humour, Cyrus works well.