TL;DR – While there are some hard turns throughout this film, it is a true delight when it soars.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
Cyrano Review –
For me personally, I don’t need a film to be perfect. It can be filled with flaws, but as long as it still reaches me emotionally, that is fine. That emotion can be joy, sadness, wonder, or even anger. Today we look at just such a film that enraptured me in places and frustrated me in others.
So to set the scene, we open in France, which has been at war for an age. Roxanne (Haley Bennett) is getting ready to be taken to the theatre by De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), a man she does not love, but he paid for the tickets. The theatre was a joy right up until a voice calls out from the shadows decrying the leading actor. The voice head of The Guards and childhood friend of Roxanne, Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage). Cyrano is profoundly in love with Roxanne but has never declared his intentions. Later that night, Roxanne’s attendant Marie (Monica Dolan) invites Cyrano to a private meeting with Roxanne. Cyrano is ecstatic, but this is short-lived when she asks him to look out for her love Christian de Neuvillette (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Christian doesn’t know how to confess his love for Roxanne, so Cyrano makes a deal. He will write romantic prose for Roxanne but under the name of Christian.
Where the film shines is when it lets its main cast shine. Peter Dinklage is a joy from the moment he appears on screen to the moment the credits roll. He takes the role of Cyrano de Bergerac and makes it his own, and captures every moment he is on screen. Cyrano as a character can be a bit frustrating with conflicting pompousness and vanity, but Peter takes these strengths and flaws and crafts a character that you are deeply compelled to follow. I liked that the film frame a lot [not all] from Peter’s perspective, which makes the first fights scene work a lot better than it could have.
Roxanne still suffers from the fact that she is a female character written by a man in the 1600s. However, they have made several tweaks to give her a bit more agency so that instead of acting in vanity, she is working to find the best options from a poor situation. Also, the film goes out of its way to show that Roxanne is not privy to the same information as the audience, making her actions much more understandable. Haley Bennett brings a lot of warmth to the character, which is needed when you are the film’s emotional core. Conversely, if Christian sucked as a character, it would make it straightforward as to who to root for. Kelvin Harrison Jr. brings such charm and joy to the role that you do feel for him being put in the situation where he is wooing the love of his life with words that are not his own. Also, pro-tip, if Ben Mendelsohn is in your film, let the world know that Ben Mendelsohn is in your movie.
From a production perspective, the film revels in its location work across the south of Italy. There is a level of history in several buildings that just brings everything to life in a lived world. As it is a musical, the question then becomes how good is the music … well. Most of the songs in this film take inspiration from the older story but reinterpret them through a modern lens. Think the world-building in A Knight’s Tail or the music in Hamilton. They represent this visually by slipping into a magical-reality world whenever someone starts to sing. The songs themselves, well, some I will take and some I’ll leave, with the Someone to Say reprise being my favourite.
However, there is a but, and it is a big but. Though this but revolves around the inciting incident for the third act and the third act. So there will be some [SPOILERS] for the rest of this paragraph. Cyrano is a film that will tonally shift quite quickly under your feet, some of those shifts, like Cyrano comforting a man he just stabbed and who is bleeding out, work. However, some fall flat. The inciting incident that kills off one of the notable characters is just stupid. It is so frustrating because it undercuts everything the character did, so it is meant to be an act of self-sacrifice in the film, but it just reads as a temper tantrum. This incident leaves a bad taste in the mouth, leading right into the film’s climax. Thankfully, it is not enough to undercut the movie entirely, but given the ending is such a hard turn, the lead into that could have been handled better.
In the end, do we recommend Cyrano? It is not a perfect film, but when it comes together, it is glorious. Peter Dinklage delivers one of the year’s best performances, and if nothing else, I would recommend it for that. If you liked Cyrano, I would also recommend to you In the Heights.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Cyrano
Directed by – Joe Wright
Screenplay by – Erica Schmidt
Based on – Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand & Cyrano by Erica Schmidt, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Matt Berninger & Carin Besser
Music by – Aaron Dessner & Bryce Dessner
Cinematography by – Seamus McGarvey
Edited by – Valerio Bonelli
Production/Distribution Companies – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bron Creative, Working Title Films & Universal Pictures
Starring – Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Dolan, Joshua James & Ray Strachan
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13