Never come between a mother and her child. But what if the child is Jonah Hill, a college-age codependent who calls himself a freelance DJ, and mom Marisa Tomei his best friend? Writer-director-brothers Jay and Mark Duplass split the difference between comedy and agony in this awkward charmer about the man who dares brave the twosome’s Highland Park hideaway—though “brave” is a big word for John C. Reilly’s depressive, divorced loner. He and Tomei meet at a party where he’s been toted by ex-wife Catherine Keener and her new fiancée Matt Walsh to drink himself into oblivion. Sure, their first words happen when Tomei surprises him peeing on a hedge, but the bohemian nurturer immediately clues in to the hollow in his heart and decides to help him fill it. That night, she springs out of his bed and runs home like a princess under the spell of an ogre. Which, when we first meet Hill, isn’t too far from the truth. The comedian is great as emotionally stunted son Cyrus; like a badger surprised in his burrow, he’s at once vulnerable and menacing. Tomei, ripe and soft, plays her role like a tender peach—we get why both men won’t share this sweet naïf, but while she’s their focus, her character’s merely a tool for the script. As Reilly and Hill’s aggression escalates from lying to stealing to threats, Cyrus teeters into slapstick, (instead of Step Brothers, it’s Step Son) only it pulls back when things get too loud. The film’s slim and tonally off-balance and it rushes its ending, but moment to moment it’s miserably enjoyable and true, especially Reilly’s turn as a regressed adult who slowly learns to stand tall and strong and be the man his woman deserves, the man Hill regrets biology won’t let him be.

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