Monday, May 30, 2022



French poet-playwright Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac has been adapted for screen since the dawn of the silent era - most notably with Steve Martin and Gerard Depardieu taking on the role of the tragic romantic hero.  In this adaptation by Erica Schmidt, from her own successful stage musical., the lead actor is Schmidt's husband and GAME OF THRONES' Peter Dinklage, playing Cyrano as a witty, articulate soldier who is crippled by self-doubt not because of the play's large nose but because of his dwarfism. Cyrano is in love with his childhood friend Roxanne (HALEY BENNETT), but fears she will reject him because of his appearance. So, when she falls for his handsome but inarticulate fellow soldier Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr - THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7), Cyrano offers to write Roxanne love letters on his behalf.

Matters take a grim turn when Roxanne is courted by the rich and predatory De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn - ROGUE ONE - in full pantomime villain mode), and Cyrano helps Roxanne and Christian marry in secret before the two soldiers are sent to war. 

The resulting film is spare and elegantly constructed but filmed in a maddeningly, almost GODFATHER II chiaroscuro which the pretentious director Joe Wright clearly feels is emblematic of hidden truths and deception.  Poor Ben Mendelsohn is not asked to give a performance of any depth and neither is Kelvin Harrison Jr. There is far more to Haley Bennett's passionate, smart and rebellious Roxanne, although she is made to be so perceptive and witty it's hard to believe she wouldn't a) rumble the ruse and b) love Cyrano for his intellect from the start. There's also something deeply uncomfortable for a modern audience seeing a young woman duped in this way, into a marriage with a man she cannot help but soon find out is not who she thought he was. 

And did I mention this was a musical? With bad music that has a kind of weird country rock feel that works against its setting, costumes and dour, po-faced mood?

The only two reasons to watch this film - and the two stars I have awarded it - are as follows: first, Peter Dinklage is charismatic and compelling and heart-breaking as Cyrano.  Second, there is a particularly good and deeply sad song by soldiers on the eve of battle.

CYRANO has a running time of 123 minutes and is rated PG-13. It is available to rent and own.

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