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Review: 'Cyrano'

Cyrano de Bergerac was a real life seventeenth century French writer. A highly fictionalized version of his life was written in 1897 by Edmond Rostard.

We know the story from several movie adaptations, notably Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) with Jose Ferrer and Mala Powers and Roxanne (1987) starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah.

Both depicted Cyrano as a hopeless romantic with a “Roman nose.” As the old joke goes, a nose that was roamin’ all over his face.

It was a ridiculously, embarrassingly large appendage that prevented poor Cyrano from expressing his true feelings for his love interest Roxanne. The best he could do was to pen love letters on behalf of someone else who was also in love with Roxanne.

Cyrano’s sad fate was to torturingly watch her and love her from afar. Unrequited love had always been a powerful theme, in literature, on stage and in the movies.

This latest adaptation of Cyrano was based on a stage play written by Erica Schmidt in 2019. She and Peter Dinklage are a married couple in real life.

The movie musical version of Cyrano was directed by Joe Wright, boyfriend of Haley Bennett, who stars as Roxanne.

I confess that I’ve been a fan of Haley Bennett all the way back to her standout supporting role in Music and Lyrics (2007) when she played the superficial but likeable pop singing sensation, Cora Corman. I knew she had the potential for a bright future.

I am also a big fan of Peter Dinlkage, who made quite a mark in Hollywood with some of his earliest films like The Station Agent (2003) and the wildly successful Elf, that same year. We all know him as Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones. He has had an impressive career that has defied the odds.

Addressing the 800 pound gorilla in the room, the only actors of Peter Dinklage’s appearance and physical stature, of note, appeared as Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Think about it.

By the way, Mickey Rooney doesn’t count, despite all the short jokes over all the years. Supposedly, movie directors used to sometimes request their dolly operators do a “Mickey Rooney.” When asked what they meant, the response was, “You know, a little creep.”

Breaking through that long history of stereotyping and verbal abuse must have required Herculean drive and perseverance deserving of a stand-alone documentary film about Dinklage. Somebody out there should think about making one.

He is a formidable talent with a long list of credits. As with Haley Bennett, I am a fan.

So when I saw the two of them were being paired up for this new version of Cyrnao, I was in. The substitution of small stature for an oversized proboscis was a brilliant twist, as was the decision to do the story as a movie musical.

This version of Cyrano is something to behold. Much of it is beautifully shot on location in Sicily. Visually, it has a European, art film flavor.

The art direction is first rate. The images have a rich, dreamlike quality with foreground and background elements rendered in sumptuous soft focus. The direction and staging of the musical scenes is spirited and inventive. It’s a period piece movie that is a visual feast.

Remarkably, Cyrano is a movie musical that relies only sparingly on musical numbers. Less than you might expect, perhaps. But the songs are well-composed, catchy tunes that you might hum on the way home, written by Bryce Dessner and Aaron Dessner of the rock band The National.

Cyrano follows the basic storyline of classic tale. Not many surprises. Just some nice, clever twists. And some great performances worth seeing.

Look for Oscar nominations for: Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and maybe a few more.

Dinklage dominates. Particularly in his close-ups in which his expressions register every nuance of his emotions—from intense love and longing to unendurable pain and suffering.

Haley Bennett gives us a fresh new character here-- a beautiful young woman attempting to find love and freedom in a world in which she is socially imprisoned.

Her face is a study in natural beauty befitting the story’s setting and time frame. She’s perfect.

Cyrano does what movies rarely do successfully--reimagine an old, familiar story with a refreshing new perspective that is truly worth seeing.


Cyrano begins an exclusive theater run December 17th and will be in select theaters January 21st.


Photo Credits: Peter Mountain © 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved

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