Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Joe Wright
Stars: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison jr, Ben Mendelsohn, Monica Dolan, Bashir Salahuddin, Joshua James.
French playwright Edmond Rostand first wrote his famous play Cyrano de Bergerac in 1897, and it has been performed many times since. There have even been numerous film versions, the most famous of which include a 1950 movie starring Jose Ferrer, who won an Oscar for his performance; the 1987 romantic comedy Roxanne which starred Steve Martin (in fine form) and Daryl Hannah; and there was a French version in 1990 starring a robust Gerard Depardieu in the title role.
This latest version of the famed play reimagines it as a musical. Cyrano is based on the stage play written in 2018 by Erica Schmidt and starring her husband Peter Dinklage (from Game Of Thrones, etc) in the title role. The play was written especially for Dinklage. Rather than having a large nose as in the original, here Dinklage’s Cyrano is of diminutive status and fears that his beloved cousin Roxanne (Haley Bennett) will not love him.
When Roxanne sees the handsome new recruit Christian (Kelvin Harrison jr, from The Trial Of The Chicago Seven, etc) it is love at first sight. But Christian proves to be inarticulate and unable to voice his feelings. Instead Cyrano reluctantly agrees to write little love poems for Roxanne, and in these epistles he pours out his true feelings. But the ruthless and entitled de Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn) is also a rival for Roxanne’s affections and when she rebuffs him he angrily sends Cyrano and Christian and their unit off to fight against the Spanish.
Cyrano has been smoothly directed by Joe Wright who does a good job of juggling the numerous characters and subplots. A couple of sequences stand out – one sees the soldiers dancing in a superbly choreographed routine, and then there is the haunting scene in which the weary soldiers march off to battle singing a dirge. As Seamus McGarvey’s camera swirls and swoops around the setting it is reminiscent of the D-Day scene from Wright’s own Atonement. The film was beautifully shot on stunning locations in Italy.
The music and lyrics for the play were written by Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Matt Berninger from the rock band The National, and are delivered in that talking/singing style of many modern musicals that often cast non singers in key roles. Few of the songs are memorable though. Both Dinklage and Bannett reprise their roles from the original stage production here so there is an instant affinity with their characters. While Dinklage may not be the strongest singer his performance is strong and his facial expressions convey so much about his emotions. His singing does have a deep, raspish quality about it though. Bennett is charming as Roxanne and suffuses the role with intelligence and passion. Cast once again as a villain, Mendelsohn is also very good as the malevolent and jealous de Guiche.
This is a handsomely mounted production with some great production design from Sarah Greenwood, and superb costumes from Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran which further enrich the film.
This is a familiar and often told tale about unrequited love, but Schmidt and Wright put a new spin on the story here, and it works reasonably well.