REVIEW: ‘Cyrano’ Will Win Your Heart Through Its Story—Not Its Songs

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Cyrano - But Why Tho

Cyrano, directed by Joe Wright and written by  Erica Schmidt, is based on Schmidt’s 2018 stage musical which drew its own inspiration from the French play Cyrano de Bergerac. Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) is a skilled duelist and wordsmith who struggles with expressing his love for his childhood friend Roxanne (Hayley Bennett). Roxanne, however, is in love with Cyrano’s fellow soldier Christian de Neuvillette (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Cyrano offers to pass off his own romantic poems as Christian’s, while also struggling with the matters of his own hard and the duplicitous De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), who has his own romantic desires involving Roxanne.

Wright is best known for his period pieces including Atonement and Pride & Prejudice, and he takes to the Franco-Spanish War setting like a duck to water. The clothing is full of ruffles, frills, and buckles; the women’s hairstyles are formed into literal towers that nearly touch the ceiling; men wear wigs and cake their faces in makeup – in Mendelsohn’s case, this has the effect of making him look like a Victorian-era version of the Joker. Wright also stages spectacular dance numbers; scenes with bakers shaping loaves of bread and Roxanne receiving Christian – or rather, Cyrano’s – letters are pulsing with a raw sensuality that I didn’t expect. And that’s saying nothing of a swordfight between Cyrano and ten men, which is filmed in a single dizzying take.

Wright is also blessed with a phenomenal leading man in the form of Dinklage. Now, this isn’t Dinklage’s first time playing Cyrano; he played the role in the stage musical and is married to Schmidt. But he brings the same intensity to this role that served him well on Game of Thrones; the opening scene where he embarrasses somebody off the stage of a theater is both wildly hilarious and a show of Cyrano’s skill with words. The film also makes a welcome change from the source material; in the original play, Cyrano had a rather large nose, while here his insecurities stem from his height. It’s a smart change and a nice reminder that it’s fine for adaptations to alter elements as long as those changes a) make sense b) is true to the character.

Bennett and Harrison Jr. pour themselves into their respective parts as well, with Harrison Jr. playing Christian as an open and charming young man – even if he’s slightly slow on the uptake. Bennett is afforded the chance to give Roxanne a bit more dimension – rather than just being the love interest for Cyrano and Christian, she’s shown to have an interest in the arts, particularly poetry and theater. She even manages to fight off De Guice’s advantages, with Mendelsohn turning in yet another “love to hate him” performance.

Where the film stumbles is its songs. Songs in a musical have to fit into two criteria: they should be memorable and they should fit into the narrative perfectly. Cyrano, sadly, does neither. For all of his talent, Dinklage isn’t a particularly strong singer-and Mendelsohn is even more jarring, with a number that makes Russell Crowe’s performance in Les Miserables look inspired. There are no songs on the level of “30/90” from tick tick…BOOM! or the opening number of In The Heights, which makes me question the point of the songs in the first place. While the songs don’t entirely sink the film, I can’t help but feel it would have been better off if it had stuck to its drama aspects.

Cyrano works better as a romantic drama than it does a musical, with Peter Dinklage’s phenomenal performance and Joe Wright’s grand vision making up for some lackluster songs. If you’re a romantic at heart or if you’re really into period pieces, this film is definitely worth a watch. I hope that it’s the start of even more roles for Dinklage; he deserves to be the leading man more often.

Cyrano premieres in theaters nationwide on February 25, 2022.


Cyrano
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Cyrano works better as a romantic drama than it does a musical, with Peter Dinklage’s phenomenal performance and Joe Wright’s grand vision making up for some lackluster songs. If you’re a romantic at heart or if you’re really into period pieces, this film is definitely worth a watch. I hope that it’s the start of even more roles for Dinklage; he deserves to be the leading man more often.