Directed by: Joe Wright
Premise: An adaptation of the stage musical. In nineteenth century France, soldier and poet Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) loves Roxanne (Haley Bennett) but she only has eyes for Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a young soldier in Cyrano’s regiment. Cyrano helps Christian woo Roxanne by writing love letters in his name.
What Works: The extent to which Cyrano works is largely due to Peter Dinklage’s performance in the title role. Dinklage is convincing as a literal warrior poet. Cyrano has fearsome talent as a swordsman and a writer but he is also emotionally vulnerable and Dinklage brings to life all those aspects of the character. His romantic yearning is irresistible and Dinklage is such a charismatic screen presence playing an empathetic character that viewers can’t help but want to see his love requited. Haley Bennett is also quite good as Roxanne. She gets a lot of the best musical moments and Roxanne has a modern sensibility. She comes across as a fun character and makes an appealing pair with Dinklage. There are a few great songs in Cyrano, namely “Someone to Say” and “Wherever I Fall,” and these songs deepen the characters while punching up the emotional moments. Cyrano also has impressive production design. It’s a historical piece but the movie looks artificial in the right way; the art direction is a synthesis of real historical locations and the artifice of musical stage design and the resulting look suits the movie’s fairytale pitch.
What Doesn’t: Cyrano has good songs but it isn’t a very good musical. This is director Joe Wright’s first musical feature and he doesn’t stage the set pieces in a way that makes visual or musical sense. The choreography and looping are sometimes awkward as is some of the singing. Cyrano recalls the raw style of 2012’s Les Miserables but this isn’t done nearly as well. The film also suffers from some awkward tonal shifts. That’s most evident in the opening. Cyrano fights a duel in front of a crowd, including Roxanne, and he kills his opponent. Although it is self-defense, the killing goes uncommented upon by anyone and Roxanne is unfazed by witnessing her friend commit murder. The weakest element of Cyrano is the relationship between Christian and Roxanne. It’s not the fault of the actors who do a fine job with the material. The problem is that Christian is a cypher. There is nothing to him except the romantic ideation that Roxanne projects onto Christian and aside from Cyrano’s letters there is no reason for Roxanne to fall in love with him.
Bottom Line: Cyrano has some of the elements of a great musical but the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Peter Dinklage’s performances and a few good songs are undermined by awkward execution.
Episode: #893 (March 6, 2022)