English director Joe Wright returns to the silver screen with Cyrano, an adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. Love is in the air as Cyrano, played by Peter Dinklage, pines for the affections of Roxanne (Haley Bennett). After playing in Los Angeles for a week in December, to potentially qualify for Oscar consideration, Cyrano expands this weekend nationwide.
Wright brings a sense of bravado to this production as Cyrano looks to court the lovely Roxanne. Roxanne, however, has fallen for another man. In short, Dinklage is heartachingly and hauntingly beautiful in his performance. Dinklage’s performance is keenly aware of the character’s talents, a poet who can draft sonnets in moments but lacks the courage or, better stated, the conviction to push through his social status and his physical appearance to profess his love. It leads Roxanne to fall for Christian de Neuvillette, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. Christian has all the right timing but gets tongue-tied in conveying his feelings.
Cyrano‘s music is the film’s centerpiece, though what drives the story is the witty banter between Cyrano de Bergerac and Christian. We never have the chance to disconnect from the story; Wright’s camera is always transfixed on the scenery flowing freely, courtesy of Seamus McGarvey. Through his love, Dinklage’s forlorn looks and features convey the complexities of the various relationships. He doesn’t think himself worthy of Roxanne’s affections and Christian doesn’t think he can attract the type of woman she is, becoming surrogates for one another, Cyrano de Bergerac with his words and Christian with the physical stature. There’s a moment in the film where they are headed off to war; before departing, they both desperately want to say goodbye to Roxanne. Wright manages to capture this painful moment exceptionally well.
Not all of Cyrano is a romance between the characters. Wright conveys a romanticism of swashbuckling stories of the past. Dinklage and Harrison Jr acquit themselves appropriately. With McGarvey’s expert framing, the broad, expansive widescreen image conveys the romance and heartbreak, especially during the war sequences. Each performance is full of intellect; none of the actors portrays “dumb,” citing unexpected independence with Dinklage setting the tone. His mischievousness excites and his honesty sincere; a rawness to his singing voice moves you. Ben Mendelsohn also stars as De Guiche, Roxanne’s arrogant suitor. The actor brilliantly sings “What I Deserve,” a haunting song conveying his self-centeredness and the threat that he feels Cyrano de Bergerac and Christian bring toward his relationship with Roxanne.
Cyrano adroitly reminds us that love causes us to act in strange ways, and the story strains slightly because of this fact. War drives the two men toward their respective destinies. Akin to Dear Evan Hansen, Dinklage and Bennett reprise their stage roles in this film; Cyrano, fortunately, takes liberties with its screenplay where Dear Evan Hansen did not.
Thus, Cyrano is a fresh take on a classic.
Directed by Joe Wright
Screenplay by Erica Schmidt, based on the stage musical Cyrano adapted and directed by Erica Schmidt, from Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
Starring Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Ben Mendelsohn, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Dolan
PG-13, 124 mins, Metro Goldwyn Mayer/BRON Creative/Working Title