Movie Review: Cyrano

I was really looking forward to this movie. No, not because I’m a gentleman that possesses a slightly bigger nose than most; but because it has Peter Dinklage, who is always enjoyable to watch on the big screen. It also has an actor that I told during an interview, was my favorite young actor working today – Kelvin Harrison Jr. He was the only thing I liked about It Comes at Night (a movie that was billed as a horror film, but was really just a boring story about people holed up in a house). In one year he did Waves and Luce, which both made my Top 10 (the later being my favorite film of the year). And while I’m not the biggest fan of musicals per se, the idea of making this story a musical seemed intriguing. I also love movies that aren’t traditional musicals, the way Once was (and it was nice to see the lead singer from that film, Glen Hansard, pop up in this).

Yet this wasn’t as good as the version that had Gerard Depardieu, or the brilliant script Steve Martin gave us for Roxane. And as hard as it is to take comedian Janeane Garofalo, I adored seeing her and Uma Thurman do a version of this story in The Truth About Cats & Dogs.

Dinklage’s wife Erica Schmidt wrote this script and it was Off Broadway before this film version. All of that made me eager to watch it.

Everyone knows the classic 1897 stage play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, even if you hear that last name and think Linda Ronstadt. Cyrano is a noble soldier, great with a sword, and is musical. He also dabbles in poetry; but because of his huge nose, he’s insecure about his looks and believes this will keep him from ever having a relationship with the intellectual and beautiful Roxane, his cousin (yeah, that last part hasn’t aged well). It’s refreshing that Dinklage isn’t wearing a distracting prosthetic nose, it’s his height that stifles his confidence. Also a nice change of pace that the guy he’ll help woo Roxane (Haley Bennett) is African-American. 

Dinklage is the best thing about this movie. He is soulful, and his face is very expressive. His singing voice might not be the best (and he often talks the lyrics), but he has a brooding vibe. It’s just disappointing that so many of the songs are mediocre (the band The National wrote them). The musicals I love – Grease, Chicago, and this years In the Heights – have songs I want to hear over and over. I wasn’t digging these tunes the first time I was hearing them in the scenes.

There were also times Cyrano came off as a pretentious jerk. We first see him heckling a guy on stage, and it seemed a bit rude (although it was a fun scene). 

And while Cyrano is a bit of a jerk, Roxane seems a bit shallow, and not his intellectual equal. 

We’ll have to also believe she’s bad at recognizing voices, since Cyrano has to pretend to be Christian (Harrison) at one point, and yet she’s known Cyranno since childhood.

This film also lacked humor. Now, it’s a beautifully shot period piece by cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, so maybe director Joe Wright felt humor wouldn’t fit that era (uh, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is hysterical and it was written in 1601). 

Not only is it lacking humor, it’s also lacking romance. And I’m going to have to lay the blame on the director, because…I wasn’t a fan of his Pan, Darkest Hour (despite Gary Oldman being great in it), The Woman in the Window, or Anna Karenina (and I barely remember Atonement). 

Here’s an example of the poor writing (and I saw this 3 months ago, so I can’t remember the scene dialogue). Christian is trying to explain something to Cyrano and he can’t come up with the word. Cyrano tells him the word. Yet it’s not like he’s trying to say something like “Maybe Roxane isn’t right for me, she’s so…eru..uh…eru…” and Cyrano interrupts to say “erudite.” No. What they have him say is something like “She’s something so…spe…spe…uh…spe…” and he says “Special?” And Christian exclaims, “Yeah, that’s the word.” And you’re wondering…how does he not know that word? His character isn’t a stupid illiterate character, he’s just not as smart as Cyrano.

It was nice to see Ben Mendelsohn in this. He always plays a great villain.

The first half was good, the second half was not.

It’s all an unpleasant experience and a bit of a downer. I’d give it 2 ½ out of 5. My wife liked it a lot more. She’d give it 4 stars out of 5.

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