Following upon numerous dramatic and comedic interpretations of Edmond Rostand’s classic tale of unrequited love, comes a musical interpretation where the protagonist’s hangup isn’t the size of his nose. Rather, it’s the size of his body.
Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage, TV’s GOT) is an officer of the guard in mid-17th century France. Although he is small in stature, he’s no one’s fool and he is well respected by his fellow soldiers for his swordsmanship and bravery. He is also a well known poet, taking time to help his friends craft the most romantic of love letters. Cyrano is secretly in love with his childhood friend, Roxanne (Haley Bennett, HILLBILLY ELEGY; THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME; SWALLOW), though he won’t tell her in fear that she will reject him because of his height. Roxanne, meanwhile, is being wooed by the lecherous playboy Comte de Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn, SPIES IN DISGUISE; CAPTAIN MARVEL; DARKEST HOUR; SLOW WEST), though she’s infatuated with the guard’s newest recruit, the dashing Christian de Neuvillette (Kelvin Harrison Jr., THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7; THE HIGH NOTE) just as he is with her. At Roxanne’s request, Cyrano takes Christian under his wing, writing love letters to Roxanne under Christian’s name.
Directed by Joe Wright (DARKEST HOUR; ATONEMENT; PRIDE & PREJUDICE), who is no stranger to adapting period dramas to the big screen, CYRANO is based on the stage play written by Erica Schmidt, who happens to be Dinklage’s wife. The show had a limited run off-Broadway in 2019 starring Dinklage and Bennett. Bennett is in a relationship with Wright so this project really is une affaire de coeur.
The performances are superb, the costumes, sets and production design are all fabulous, and the cinematography by Wright’s long-time associate Seamus McGarvey (BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE; THE GREATEST SHOWMAN) is akin to looking at a series of French Baroque art masterpieces. Where the film falters, however, is with the music by Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner of the American rock band The National. Perhaps the songs are supposed to be typical of that era but they are weak and completely forgettable. Even though Dinklage can’t sing very well, though he does hit it out of the park with Bennett and Harrison on “Every Letter”, it generally works for his character. There just needed to be more numbers like that one. I didn’t know Bennett could sing but she certainly has a beautiful voice.
The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival last September and is scheduled for a theatrical release in the US and the UK on February 25th so that it can qualify for this year’s Oscars. It was supposed to come to Hong Kong at the same time but with our cinemas currently closed and no plan in place to reopen them anytime soon, it’s anyone’s guess when audiences here will be able to watch it. The film is being handled outside the US by Universal and they don’t have a streaming service here… yet.
Certainly, when CYRANO does come to a screen near you, check it out. The music is a big problem but I enjoyed the film far more than I thought I would.
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