In 1897 Edmond Rostand wrote a timeless play about tortured romance and self-doubt that would capture the public’s attention for centuries. The famed script Cyrano de Bergerac has been adapted multiple times over the years across various media.
However, the latest attempt to bring Rostand’s work to the silver screen is especially delightful. Cyrano is an eye-catching musical that successfully sweeps you into the theatrics of misguided love, and the world of 17th century Paris with full finger-snapping gusto. Directed by period drama and romance movie connoisseur Joe Wright ( Pride and Prejudice, and Anna Karenina), Cyrano is an adaptation of the 2018 off-Broadway musical of the same name – which is based on Rostand’s original script.
In Wright’s version of the story, Peter Dinklage embodies the titular role, Cyrano, who secretly pines after his beautiful long-time friend Roxanne (Haley Bennett). However, Cyrano’s social status and perceptions of his physical appearance hold him back from confessing his feelings to his true love. Like any good romance movie, things become doubly complicated as Roxanne then enters into a relationship with a soldier under his care – the likeable but tongue-tied Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr).
Within the film’s first act, we witness Cyrano, who, believing that he will never physically be with Roxanne due to his height, lends his poetry talents to Christian. The soldier starts delivering Roxanne Cyrano’s letters, and the two embark on a convoluted lie for the woman that they both admire.
As Roxanne becomes more enthralled by the words she receives, Cyrano must watch her fall deeper in love with another man from the sidelines in a hell of his own making. The fire around Cyrano’s feet gets even hotter as the influential, and frankly, creepy Duc de Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn) also sets his sights on Roxanne, all while the war between France and Spain starts to escalate.
Written by Erica Schmidt, Cyrano as a story is a heart-breaking watch that only slightly updates Rostand’s original work. In the 1897 play, Cyrano was afflicted with a huge and unfortunately shaped nose; however, in this adaptation, the character is part of the dwarfism community.
Dinklage is incredibly likeable as a protagonist and easily captures the duality of Cyrano, who is outwardly confident, yet internally, is crippling self-deprecating in his thoughts and feelings. He is a fierce soldier and sword fighter, a captain amongst men, a praised poet.
Yet, he is also constantly putting himself down due to society’s discriminatory attitude towards his height. Dinklage brings a staggering amount of sincerity into his performance, with every emotional beat and song pulling on our heartstrings as a result of his authenticity. Along with Dinklage’s stand out portrayal, Cyrano as a film captures the imagination, and will undoubtedly trigger a mass amount of endorphins into the brains of any period drama lover.
The sun-soaked set of 17th century Paris seen in Cyrano is full of ornate gowns, gilded carriages, and bustling marketplaces. It is easy to lose yourself in Wright’s theatrical world that feels straight out of a romance novel.
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Similarly, Cyrano’s cinematography is idyllically bright with warmish undertones that just adds to the cosy and comfortable feeling that you’ll experience when watching this film. In short, Wright has proven once again that if you need a historical romance or a period drama fantasy, he is your guy.
However, despite me singing Cyrano’s praises, it must be said that Wright’s and Schmidt’s adaptation isn’t perfect. With an engaging first and second act, the film’s pacing fumbles towards the end as the tone shifts dramatically from being relatively light-hearted to starkly morbid.
We go from our lead characters breaking out into songs about sexually reading letters, to faceless peasants anticipating death and war. With the film’s style showing characters slipping seamlessly into musical numbers without warning, these moments especially stand out, and you can’t help but feel that the musical theatre tropes employed throughout the movie change from charming to, let’s face it, a bit odd.
The sudden shift in the script is jarring as the film changes course and attempts to deal with more serious and dramatic subject matter without easing viewers into this slight genre shift. Similarly, although the entire cast is fantastic with Bennet as Roxanne especially standing out on the singing front, some choices and performances seem lacklustre.
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Moments such as Dinklage rapping or haphazard choreography during certain scenes such as a love song in a bakery just don’t live up to the theatricality and splendour that is the rest of this movie. It is obvious that during certain moments in Cyrano, which would have looked fabulous on stage, the adaptation simply forgot its new medium.
But we can all forgive the occasional stumble from Cyrano here or there since this drama movie is just so damn charming. While only a few songs stand as bangers, and pacing does lag at points, here is a musical that both theatre fans and cinephiles can enjoy.
Peter Dinklage breaks hearts and captures attention in a flawed but absolutely delightful musical