Living up to his reputation, Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) is the perfect man – the one all men should aspire to be. He’s eloquently soft spoken with a tough exterior and razor-sharp wit. When pushed back into a corner, he is at his most dangerous, able to use his sword as an extension of his limbs. He’s quick and nimble and sincere – there isn’t a deceitful bone in his body. His one massive flaw, however – Cyrano believes that no one could love him for what he looks like. For all the charisma and charm radiating from Cyrano’s every word spoken, his lack of self-acceptance and confidence ends up being his most damaging personality trait.
Cyrano the man, is in love, but his love can only be given from a far, unbeknownst to the woman he loves, his oldest friend Roxanne (Haley Bennett). Cyrano can write letter after letter describing in unbelievable detail how much he loves Roxanne but when they come face to face, he loses his passion, swallowed up in a fear that Roxanne would never accept him or his love for her. Roxanne is pressured by Marie (Monica Dolan) to marry rich – “Children need love, adults need money”. Her relentless suitor De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn) will stop at nothing to have Roxanne, but her heart belongs to another. One she fell for the moment their eyes locked onto each other – Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.).
Therein lies the conflict of director Joe Wrights adaptation of Erica Schmidt’s stage play that was also based on the 1897 Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac. Christian isn’t as skillful with words as Cyrano is nor does he possess the means in truly expressing himself. Words are lost on him, but Roxanne loves him – in her mind, there is no one else for her which allows Cyrano to make Roxanne fall in love with him through his word’s Christian passes as his own. “You will make me handsome” Cyrano tells Christian excitedly.
In a way, Cyrano and Christian are what the internet calls a catfish. Both are passing for someone they aren’t to impress a woman to fall in love. Only there is no internet, love letters are passed between the three in bunches only to heighten the illusion that the words are Christian’s and Christian’s alone. Cyrano should give himself more credit. He’s not the first to struggle with self-confidence and he won’t be the last – it’s a familiar trope used over and over that usually ends happily for all involved, to a degree. Only Cyrano doesn’t have a happy ending.
For 124 minutes Cyrano is somber and full of gloom but hopeful that happiness and love is right around the corner. The tone is set immediately when Roxanne meets De Guiche. Who cares about money when the love isn’t there? Wright treats love as forbidden fruit – a secret we as the audience is let in on but never get to fully experience because the person in Roxanne’s gaze isn’t her true love. He’s convenient and the better choice than a rich snob who powders his nose and mocks and insults Cyrano.
The true tragedy is that Cyrano is completely overlooked and forgotten by the Academy for this year’s awards. Peter Dinklage has nothing else to prove with his talent. If the best actor category wasn’t already packed full of outstanding performance’s, Dinklage deserves to be among the other leading men. Whenever Dinklage speaks, nothing else matters, the surrounding noise stops, everyone around him holds on to his words as if they were to be his last. Remember what he achieved as Tyrion Lannister? On trial for the murder of his father Tywin; Dinklage commands the room effortlessly. As an actor, he’s engrossing. The emotion from his eyes says it all – Cyrano is a broken man holding on to any bit of happiness by a thread.
On the other hand, the musical aspect of Cyrano doesn’t add to the overall quality of the film. songs are delivered in a monotonous style while Dinklage dazzles with his rhythmic hip-hop style delivery. the choreography doesn’t feel natural, movements look stiff and uncomfortably contorted. Every dance feels scripted unlike In The Heights or West Side Story.
Paired with Dinklage is Haley Bennett (who both reprise their roles from Erica Schmidt’s musical) and their chemistry together is as potent as the love the two write about to each other. Both look completely comfortable in their reprisals but there are moments when the performances are played on the safe side from how Wright directs his stars. The moments shared between the two are too few and far between – their chemistry couldn’t fully showcase itself because of Christian’s involvement and the need to push the story forward. If only Kelvin Harrison Jr. wasn’t so flat with his portrayal of Christian. In a love triangle he felt like the third wheel – losing his grip while the other two fall deeper into their forbidden love story. Mendelsohn is another thing entirely. His De Guiche borderlines parody of the period and feels out of touch with reality.
Beyond performances that were overlooked, that make the adaptation worth while to go and see, the production design will transport you to the period – every frame is enriched with enough details that are sure to standout no matter how big or small they are. And even then – only costume design is nominated. Director Joe Wright does the best with his stars but most of Cyrano adds to the hopelessness of being a romantic. Don’t expect a happy ending, just a tragic love story of someone who never saw his own worth as a human being and waited too long.
Written By: Erica Schmidt
Directed By: Joe Wright
Music By: Aaron Dessner & Bryce Dessner
Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn, Monica Dolan
Release Date: February 25, 2022
Running Time: 2 Hours 4 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
My Score: 3 out of 5
Based On: Cyrano by Erica Schmidt, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Matt Berninger, Carin Besser and Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand