Cyrano (2021)

Director: Joe Wright
Writer: Erica Schmidt
Based on: Edmond Rostand‘s play
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn, Monica Dolan, Bashir Salahuddin, Joshua James, Anjana Vasan, Ruth Sheen, Glen Hansard, Mark Benton, Richard McCabe, Peter Wight
Seen on: 15.3.2022
[Here’s my review of the stage adaptation.]

Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) is a poet and soldier, known for being short, and his hot temper that earns him a certain respect and fear. Cyrano is very much in love with Roxane (Haley Bennett) with whom he connects over their shared love of poetry. But he has never told her, fearing that she couldn’t possibly love him because of his looks. When she tells him that she is in love with the newly arrived soldier Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and asks him for help, he is reluctant. But when he learns that Christian also loves Roxane, but has trouble with words, he suggests that he could help him find the right ones to court her.

Cyrano is a bit of a mixed bag of beans. Some parts of it work very well, others not so much. I enjoyed it, but it just can’t keep up with the stage version I only saw recently.

The film poster showing a big close-up of Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) looking into the distance, with Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr. ) and Roxanne (Haley Bennett) holding each other in a smaller image beneath him.

Cyrano looks beautiful, has great costumes and chose some interesting locations to set its scenes. I was also pleasantly surprised by the music that I didn’t know before. In the trailer it seemed rather forgettable and lackluster and while it probably isn’t the greatest musical ever made, it is much better than the trailer made it seem. Dinklage and Bennett perform those songs well, and I quite liked the choreographies that seemed to strike the right tone for me – in part understated, and then again absolutely flamboyant.

I really liked that they cast Dinklage as Cyrano as it gives the more ridiculous aspects of Cyrano’s nose being the reason he is looked down on a more serious flavor entirely. I have trouble imagining a nose that is actually that bad, but there is no denying that we live in a lookist society and that little people like Dinklage face a whole lot of discrimination. A part of that is that they are not thought of to be desirable (which, really, Dinklage has already well-proven to be laughable with his sexiness). This gives Cyrano’s doubts about approaching Roxanne more realism and weight.

Roxanne (Haley Bennett) and Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) clasping hands as he turns away from her.

Unfortunately, the very last line of this version seems to explain this part of the storyline away a little, laying the blame entirely at Cyrano’s feet (if only he had been more courageous, things wouldn’t have had to become so dramatic). And that’s not the only issue I had with the film. A much bigger problem was the total lack of chemistry between pretty much everyone (maybe because Dinklage is 20 years older than Bennett). This is particularly surprising because usually Wright really knows how to turn up the heat in his films. We get what is supposed to be a steamy masturbation scene, but instead becomes rather funny when Roxanne starts to rub letters all over herself. I mean, I won’t pretend that words aren’t excellent masturbation material, but that’s not how you do it. (I also laughed my heart out at the scene in the bakery and I get the distinct feeling that this is not what I was supposed to do.)

Another thing that gave me pause was that De Guice (Ben Mendelsohn) and his supporter Valvert (Joshua James) were basically the only ones who wore make-up and wigs, conflating their villainy with gender-non-conformity in an entirely unnecessary way. Aren’t we way past queer-coding villains? Especially in a play that challenges toxic masculinity so much?

I also missed a couple of beats from the original play (I love the ludicrous moon story that Cyrano tells De Guiche, and that’s unfortunately missing here), though I would have been willing to overlook these things if the film had worked better as a whole. But despite all of the good things about it, it just doesn’t really come together as a whole.

Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) and Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) talking as soldiers train behind them.

Summarizing: could have been worse, but also could have been much better.

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