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Cyrano (A Movie Review)

CYRANO (2022)

Starring Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Dolan, Joshua James, Ray Strachan, Anjana Vasan, Ruth Sheen, Glen Hansard, Sam Amidon, Scott Folan, Mark Benton, Richard McCabe, Peter Wight, Tim McMullan, Mark Bagnall, Mike Shepherd, Paul Biddiss and Katy Owen.

Screenplay by Eric Schmidt.

Directed by Joe Wright.

Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer. 123 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Edmond Rostand’s 1897 romantic drama Cyrano de Bergerac is a malleable and universally relatable play, which helps to explain why it has been tackled in so many variations and genres over the years.

An unattractive man with the heart of a poet falls in love with a beautiful woman, and that woman is in love with another man – a man who is handsome but has no skills in wooing a woman. Therefore the lovelorn man helps his friend to win the heart of the woman he worships, despite the fact that it is breaking his heart. However, he will do anything to make the woman happy.

In film alone, it has been made into a movie as a straight adaptation of the play seven times from 1900 to 2008. The situation has often been remade as a romantic comedy (Roxanne, The Truth About Cats & Dogs, Whatever It Takes, Sierra Burgess is a Loser). It has also been turned into a film noir (Love Letters), a swashbuckler (Cyrano and d'Artagnan), a samurai film (Life of an Expert Swordsman) and straight contemporary dramas (Bigger Than the Sky, The Half of It). And that’s not even considering all the theatrical and television variations.

It was only a matter of time before someone turned it into a musical. Cyrano is based on the 2018 stage musical of the same name, with Peter Dinklage and Haley Bennett reprising their roles from the stage production.

Musically, the movie is just fine. Honestly, none of the songs are overly memorable (even though they were written by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the popular band The National), but they are low-key and fit into the world that is being portrayed. Dinklage’s singing voice is serviceable at best, but through his strong acting he is able to sell the songs in character. However, the musical passages are some of the least interesting parts of Cyrano.

Overall it is a terrific adaptation of the story, however.

Director Joe Wright – who has a history with similarly epic period pieces (Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina, Atonement) – brings his skill with a costume drama to give the film a stately, charming vibe.

However, it is the strong acting which pushes Cyrano over the top. Even though he is no singer, Peter Dinklage still captures all of the contradictions of the main character – poet, knave, soldier, courtly gentleman, showman, insecure suitor. The role was definitely worthy of an Oscar nomination, and it’s a crime that it did not receive one. (Dinklage was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor.)

I knew that Bennett is a singer as well as actress – the first time she really made an impression on me was playing a pop star in the Hugh Grant-Drew Barrymore rom com Music and Lyrics. Her role of Roxanne is certainly more one-dimensional than Dinklage’s character, but that is more a problem with the source material and story than a performance situation. Kendall Harrison Jr. and Ben Mendelsohn add terrific support.

Honestly, most of my exposure to the Cyrano de Bergerac story has been through Roxanne, one of my favorite films. However, I always forget that film as a romantic comedy added a happy ending to replace Rostand’s original tragic climax. Therefore, the ending of Cyrano was heartbreaking, although of course, it works dramatically.

There is a reason that Cyrano de Bergerac has been a romantic classic for well over one hundred years, and Cyrano reminds us why it still resonates.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: February 25, 2022.


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