CYRANO movie poster | ©2021 MGM/United Artists

CYRANO movie poster | ©2021 MGM/United Artists

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn
Writer: Erica Schmidt, lyrics by Matt Berninger & Carin Besser, music by Aaron Dessner & Bryce Dessner, based on the stage play CYRANO DE BERGERAC by Edmond Rostand
Director: Joe Wright
Distributor: MGM/United Artists
Release Date: December 17, 2021

CYRANO, among other things, reminds GAME OF THRONES fans just how much we’ve missed seeing Peter Dinklage be swashbuckling. Of course, this being a film version of the stage musical CYRANO DE BERGERAC by Erica Schmidt, with lyrics by Matt Berninger & Carin Besser, and music by Aaron Dessner & Bryce Dessner (all returning for the film), adapted from Edmond Rostand’s oft-revived and adapted 1897 stage play, Dinklage in the title role also gets to be witty and romantic – and sing. He’s also perfectly expressive when saying nothing and staying still. When another character tells Cyrano, “You are my soul,” we don’t doubt it – while this isn’t what’s meant in that quote, this hero speaks for us all.

Directed by Joe Wright, this CYRANO makes several deft changes to the original, while still staying true to its spirit. Oddly, one change that is the most visible seems to make the least difference to the story’s impact.

In Rostand’s original, and in most subsequent adaptations, the character Cyrano de Bergerac is a genius poet, an admirable soldier – but afraid to woo the woman he loves on account of his big nose. Dinklage’s Cyrano has a regular-sized nose, but is small in height. His physical stature actually accentuates his prowess with a sword.

Cyrano, in fact, thinks little of defending himself against a squad of mercenaries. However, when it comes to declaring his love to the beautiful and intelligent Roxanne (Haley Bennett), his lifelong friend, Cyrano can’t bear the thought of being rejected.

Then Roxanne and Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) fall for each other at first sight. Christian is a new recruit in the regiment of soldiers that includes Cyrano. When Roxanne tells Cyrano how she feels about Christian, she expresses concern that the man may be a dullard.

Sure enough, Christian can’t write letters, or even speak eloquently. Consequently, Cyrano resolves to be Christian’s “voice,” writing letters for him and even suggesting speeches to make to Roxanne. This serves the purpose of making Roxanne happy, of allowing Cyrano to put into words his own feelings (even if they’re attributed to someone else), and give him some measure of control, even if the whole business is agonizing to him.

Writer Schmidt has kept a fair amount of Rostand’s justly famed dialogue intact. The songs by Berninger, Besser, and the Dessner brothers flow smoothly through the scenes.

As for the look of CYRANO, it is splendid. With present-day Italy standing in for the France of yore, the locations are gorgeous. Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey and director Wright create a chiaroscuro candlelit look, so that sequences have the look of moving paintings.

Despite the drama and high stakes, there is a lot of genuine comedy in CYRANO, with Dinklage, Bennett, and Harrison all deft in their timing. Bennett makes us understand the devotion she inspires in Roxanne’s many admirers, and Harrison gives Christian dignity and decency under his confusion. Ben Mendelsohn scores as the main villain of the piece, and Bashir Salahuddin has a reassuring presence as Cyrano and Christian’s commanding officer.

2021 has been a big year for musicals. In performance, script and look, CYRANO is the best of the bunch.

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