Cyrano (2021)
Cyrano (2021)

Genre: Romantic Drama and Musical Running Time: 2 hrs. 4 min.

Release Date: December 17th, 2021 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Joe Wright Actors: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn, Bashir Salahuddin

 


 

“C

hildren need love; adults need money.” Roxanne (Haley Bennett) – a “rapidly aging orphan” – is going to the theater with the Duke de Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), solely because she can’t afford the tickets. Her handmaid Marie (Monica Dolan) warns her of leading the influential man – second only to the king – astray, goading her instead to simply marry into considerable wealth. It would be an emotional compromise, since she has absolutely no feelings for him, but at least it would be a comfortable life. “Spinsterhood is bleak.”

Of a much lower station, new-recruit French guard Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) spies Roxanne riding in a coach and is immediately smitten. But before they can exchange more than a few glances, he becomes the target of a purse-snatcher, which draws him away into the crowd. A lavish play commences, featuring one of the most respected actors of the day (Mark Benton as Montfleury) and a flock of sheep dancers, until the master poet Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) halts the entertainment to save the audience from what he deems an insult to the stage. He too spies Roxanne, a longtime friend whom he wishes to impress – and with whom he’s hopelessly in love – resulting in a bold display of defiance and a sword duel with an enraged patron (Joshua James as Valvert). “My fate is to love her from afar.”

“Hope is hell!” The classic tale of Cyrano (originally by Edmond Rostand, here based on Erica Schmidt’s play) has always been a superb example of a forbidden love – or a tragic romance undergone vicariously, thanks to an overwhelming physical abnormality. Here, the usual oversized nose is replaced by actor Dinklage’s diminutive stature – a far more realistic and understandable hurdle. Nevertheless, and just as crushingly, Roxanne meets with Cyrano to inform him that she’s in love with Christian, and that she wants her forever loyal friend to look after and befriend the young guard, putting the wordsmith in a terribly uncomfortable position. Furthermore, Roxanne insists upon receiving love letters from her new beau, which will require Cyrano’s wit and intelligence, as Christian often finds himself utterly inarticulate when it comes to women. “I will make you eloquent.”

As an additional twist, this adaptation is specifically a musical, not only with singing and dancing amid massive sets and countless extras, but also with the traditional, excessively overdone makeup and costuming – boasting pasty faces with bright rouge and rangy powdered wigs. Modernized choreography and dialogue may not always fit with the period-piece visual designs, but it’s still enjoyable to see the athleticism and synchronization. Unfortunately, a few of the sequences remind of a music video, with embellishments that look vastly out-of-place and fantastical imagery that doesn’t match the settings, as well as decidedly anachronistic electric guitar twangs and drum kit beats. Of course, that likely comes from the source of the music, the American rock band The National, which generates an oddly incongruous sound for the 17th-century France aesthetic (though such a contradictory approach worked for something like “Moulin Rouge”).

Yet with its conflicting love quadrangle and risky ruse that will surely come crashing down in some form or another, “Cyrano” is an exceptional romantic drama, relying on the strength of its characters and premise to remain effective, regardless of the impact of the musical additives. Although Dinklage isn’t the strongest singer of the lot (a song sung by background soldiers [“Wherever I Fall”] is actually one of the most moving and vocally impressive), his performance tends to hold the film together; he’s by far the most emotive and convincing of the bunch. Interestingly, while this version follows the source material fairly closely, preserving the unshakeable bittersweetness and intermittent humor, the conclusion still feels a touch abrupt, which dilutes the momentum of the final revelation.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10