Peter Dinklage shines but the songs are forgettable


It’s a time-old tale: someone loves someone who loves someone else entirely. This particular type of pain and desire was immortalized forever in Edmond Rostand’s play “Cyrano de Bergerac” in the 19th century. It’s an old thread that Hollywood has repeated and remixed over various years throughout its history. Joe Wright’s adaptation of “Cyrano,” which premiered on opening night of the 2021 Telluride Film Festival, is the latest stab in history, but it’s the one that comes with a resolutely mixed result. The heights of the film are pleasant and fascinating, which is why the character has endured for decades.

But the lows – they hurt even more. You get a feel for what the “Cyrano” might have been like with a different creative direction, and the path not taken haunts the lower points of the film.

In case you missed this day in literature class, Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) is a writer who has a crush on his longtime friend, Roxanne (Haley Bennett). She, on the other hand, fell in love with a dashing young soldier, Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). The affection is returned, but there is only one problem. Roxanne wants to woo and receive letters of praise about how much he loves her. Unfortunately, Christian lacks skills, and Cyrano, unwilling to let the love of his life be crushed by another man’s flaws, steps in to write the requested love letters. Another suitor, a duke (Ben Mendelsohn, almost unrecognizable in thick makeup for the role) steps up his intentions to marry Roxanne, who is stuck enduring his advances to save her reputation while juggling the real affairs of her heart.

In this version of “Cyrano”, his namesake character abandons the usual long cartoonish nose and instead leaves Dinklage’s Cyrano to fight other men who underestimate or laugh at him for his size. No sooner does Cyrano make his memorable appearance by chasing a terrible actor from the scene, than a disguised member of the upper class insults him by calling him a monster. Regardless, this Cyrano comes with a sword, combat skills, and of course an even sharper tongue, ready to defend himself even though he’s still grappling with his own insecurities about being worthy of his own. ‘love.

It’s a little odd to see Wright struggling with an adaptation after delivering some of the most popular movies based on 21st century books like “Pride and Prejudice” and “Rehearsal”. Even his version of “Anna Karenina” has its share of defenders. Perhaps this is the fate that awaits “Cyrano” – not to be universally loved, but perhaps to find its share of fans who love his musical style and fantastic segments.

Wright’s previous adaptations were sultry affairs, rich in detail, costume and candle light. Some of his favorite things also make him “Cyrano”, with one exception. It’s not that the film lacks romance – after all, it’s still a love story – but Erica Schmidt’s screenplay and songs from Bryce Dessner and Aaron Dessner’s (The National) crew are making it through. to interrupt the feelings of the characters for untimely and rather forgettable interludes. There’s a cheesy rock song aimed at the villain and a heavy piano ballad to capture Cyrano’s hidden emotions, but just hours after the screening, I’m having a hard time remembering the lyrics or even a chorus. Whenever it feels like the narrative is taking off, it’s put aside for one song, then another. Yes, it’s a musical, adapted from Schmidt’s 2018 off-Broadway production, but it shouldn’t be that boring or awkward.

Become Cousteau

While not the loudest voice in the cast, Dinklage’s acting is much more enjoyable. He brings a deep sense of passion and rejection to convey Cyrano’s inner turmoil to the screen. He likes to sell the difficulty of the action sequences, bringing fierce energy and ballet-like quality to some fight choreography. It’s a performance that works well with Wright’s inclusion of contemporary dancers. Dinklage’s heartbroken expression when Bennett’s Roxanne tells Cyrano that she’s in love with someone else is quite an acting feat. As he stretches his face, his eyes start to fill with tears, but instead of blinking and letting them flow, he freezes, keeping his expression broken in every muscle.

As the film’s frontman, Dinklage has plenty of chances to use his comedic timing and dry spiritual delivery. As for Roxanne, Bennett brings the right dose of amorous naivety to match Cyrano’s tortured soul. She’s a shining ray of energy to counterbalance Dinklage’s performance, and she also has the ability to mature and figure things out on her own, especially when it comes to the Duke’s annoying attention.

It is admirable that Wright, Schmidt, Dinklage, Bennett and the rest of the team and the team have aimed so high in their attempt to create a version of “Cyrano de Bergerac” that is unlike any other adaptation in the way. which he drops his nose and adds numbers music (although it is interesting to point out that previous musical adaptations made their way to Broadway in 1973 and 1993). While it doesn’t go perfectly, there are some wonderful moments between Dinklage and Bennett, even Harrison Jr. and Mendelsohn have their moments to shine. Maybe that’s why this version of “Cyrano” was so bittersweet, leaving audiences with a sense of what might have been.

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