FILM REVIEW: CYRANO
Release Date: 25th February 2022
Directed by: Joe Wright
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Ben Mendelsohn
Screenplay by: Erica Schmidt
Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey
``static and set-bound and very artificial``
I’ll freely admit to personal bias, but apart from La La Land or anything involving Muppets, I don’t do well with musicals. Musicals are my Kryponite, my nemesis, my bête noire. And Cyrano has done nothing to change my mind.
Joe Wright directs Erica Schmidt’s adaptation of her own stage play, which also starred Peter Dinklage in the title role. In Schmidt’s version of Edmond Rostand’s story, Dinklage’s diminished stature acts as a substitute for Cyrano de Bergerac’s significant sniffer. Still set in 17th century France, Dinklage’s Cyrano is a dashing, swashbuckling captain of the guard. He is secretly in love with his childhood friend Roxanne (Haley Bennett). But she falls in love with a novice soldier Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr). Christian is handsome but not too bright. Cyrano is bright but not too handsome. Cyrano agrees to help Christian woo Roxanne using his words, and also – unfortunately – his singing.
Ever since his show-stealing turn in Tom DiCillo’s Living in Oblivion (1995), Dinklage has been utterly compelling and eminently watchable in almost every instance. He has a natural, magnetic charisma. The main positive of Cyrano is that it disrupts the notion of what a leading man is or should be. Casting Dinklage in the role of Cyrano de Bergerac is a brilliant idea. It’s probably the best this movie has going for it. But Dinklage is badly let down by the execution.
Cyrano has a wildly inconsistent look-and-feel. It starts off as a very garish, lurid Baz Luhrmann meets Terry Gilliam thing with everyone speaking in iambic pentameter, but eventually things calm down and the movie enters into vanilla love story territory. Nothing wrong with that as such, but everything here looks like a filmed stage musical. It feels static and set-bound and very artificial. There’s one extended take fight scene that is noteworthy. Beyond that though, it’s impossible to shake the awareness that we’re watching something that has been staged, with people who are acting. With a capital A. And that’s never a good thing.
The pool of talent involved is considerable. The songs, written by Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National, disappear from memory almost immediately. It has to be said that Dinklage doesn’t have much of a singing voice, but regardless, none of the songs stand out and there’s nothing exceptional about the material.
The ever-dependable Ben Mendelsohn plays the villain De Guiche but he’s one of those “just because” villains? Why’s he so nasty? Oh, just because. Don’t worry about it. Mendelsohn’s villain is poorly written, and not fleshed out in the slightest. This is the stuff of pantomime, and De Guiche’s actions and deeds don’t carry any emotional weight. There are a couple of key points in the plot where it becomes difficult not to ask, “Why would anyone do that under these circumstances?”
Just like Radiohead albums, Joe Wright has now directed more bad movies than good ones. Following Darkest Hour, Pan and The Woman in the Window, it’s time to stop thinking “oh good… a Joe Wright movie”. It’s clear that he is never going to direct anything as good as Atonement again, and it’s time to just accept that and move on.