Cyrano (2022) Review (650th Review)
AND I LOVED MY PRIDE!
Director Joe Wright has always gravitated towards doing historical period pieces for his film projects, letting the setting and era speak for itself within the cinematic backdrop and finding a complimenting rhythm in the period piece. Whether guided towards historical events or just the thrill of doing a costumed drama, Wright has brought several notable films to life through the camera lens, with some being well-represented through adaptations of famous literature / events. Perhaps his most famous one was his directorial debut, with 2005’s Pride & Prejudice, which starred Kiera Knightley and Matthew McFadden as the famous literary characters of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Following his film adaption of the Jane Austen’s beloved book, Wright went on to direct Atonement, which was based on novel of the same name by Ian McEwan and starred Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy in the lead roles. From there, Wright several other films, including 2009’s modern drama The Soloist, 2011’s action thriller Hanna, his 2012’s cinematic adaptation of Lev Tolstoy Anne Karenina, and the prequel reimagining of J.M. Barrie’s fantasy adventure in 2015’s Pan. While 2021’s The Woman in the Window was his most recent film, which received mostly negative reviews and criticism, Wright received high praise with for his 2017 film Darkest Hour, which followed the early days of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1940 War Cabinet Crisis / WWII. The movie receives critical remarks, with many praising Wright’s direction as well as lauding Oldman’s performance, with many deeming it one of the best of his career. Now, director Joe Wright (as well as MGM Studios and Working Title) returns to the director’s chair to produce another period piece drama with the release of Cyrano, a historical musical drama that is based on a 2018 stage musical and the 1897 play. Does Wright’s latest endeavor find its dramatic stride or does the film fail to translate its source material the correct way?
In France, Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) is a man of a charisma and power, using his witty intellect with words and poetry to maintain his land in the city, despite him being a dwarf, taking on challengers with his sharp quips and skilled with a sword. Throughout the years, Cyrano has yearned and pined for the lovely Roxanne (Haley Bennett), with the young woman who is his longtime friend and secret love, though she’s currently being courted by the Duke De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), who wants to snatch her up as his bride. While a master of words, Cyrano is unable to profess his love for Roxanne, too fearful to offer what’s in his heart and what he can physically offer her in return. In his hesitation, Cyrano soon witnesses a change in the air, with Roxanne confessing her love for one Christian de Neuvillette (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a handsome, yet poetically challenged new recruit soldier, who can’t articulate his feelings. Accepting Roxanne’s request to facilitate their communication, the poet elects to become Christian’s ghostwriter, offering romantic messages of complete devotion, using his gifts to help someone else claim his true love’s heart. Yet, Cyrano, despite his attempts, struggles to control his yearning for Roxanne, challenging the course of fate of who will win her heart.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Being a fan of movies, films, and just general cinematics, I’ve several of Joe Wright’s films. As I mentioned above, my personal favorite one would have to be Pride & Prejudice. I know everyone likes the 1995 mini-series with actor Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, but I actually preferred Wright’s version (love Knightley as Elizabeth and McFadden as Mr. Darcy). I did see Atonement and, while I understand why it was nominated for all its awards, I thought it was just an okay film (a bit dry for me). I never did see The Soloist or Hannah, but I did see Anna Karenina and found it slightly disappointing. The story was there, the costumes and make-up were phenomenal, but the overall style and execution of the film was pretty “meh” to me. As for Pan, I was super excited to see it and was really disappointed with movie’s final result, especially since I love the story of Peter Pan and loved the cast of the film. I never had the chance to see The Women in the Window, but, after hearing some of the negative reviews / comments for the film, I’m kind of glad that I didn’t see it. With Darkest Hour, I do have to say that I was quite impressed with the movie. Of course, I do like historical pieces, but Wright delivers a very solid job in representing Churchill’s early days in office as the Prime Minister. Plus, seeing actor Gary Oldman playing that role was absolutely amazing and he really deserved all the attention he received from the role, including winning several awards. Definitely one of his best roles in his career. All in all, I think that Wright is a very capable and cinematic director in the current industry and, while he’s not as “big name” like some of Hollywood’s well-known directors of today, he definitely demonstrates a strong and keen eye for drama storytelling within his features.
This brings me back to talking about Cyrano, a 2022 musical drama endeavor and the ninth film directed by Joe Wright. As I mentioned, after the release of Darkest Hour, I was to see what Wright was going to direct next and, while I didn’t really hear much talk about The Woman in the Window, I was interested to see what the film was going to be. Sadly, I didn’t hear much from Wright for some time. Heck, I really didn’t even hear about the announcement being made when he decided to direct Cyrano, a cinematic adaptation of Erica Schmidt’s 2018 stage musical of the same name, which (in turn) itself based on the 1897 Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac. Of course, I remember hearing about the classic narrative of Cyrano de Bergerac (I think I recall the 1974 cartoon adaptation of the story from my childhood), but I vaguely remember it…. only recalling a few snippets here and there. So, I was quite surprised when I first took notice of Wright’s Cyrano when I saw the film’s movie trailer back in December of 2021…. when I saw 2021’s West Side Story. From the trailer alone, the movie looked quite interesting as I did like the cast involved (Dinklage, Bennett, and Mendelsohn) as well as I found the production quality to be appealing. Plus, I was curious that the movie was going to be presented as a musical rather than a regular drama. All in all, I was definitely interested in seeing Cyrano when it was expected to come out in February 2022. However, it was only playing at one movie theater in my area and with my work schedule being so crazy, I didn’t get the chance to see the film during its theatrical run. Still, I was very much interested to see it, especially since I’ve been hearing a lot of positive reviews and remarks on the feature. So, I decided to check the movie and purchase a digital copy of it on Vudu. Yes, I bought it…. never knowing if it was going to be good or not. So…. we did I think of it? Well, I liked it. Despite a few minor problems that I had with the feature, Cyrano is a sweeping, lavishing, beautiful musical endeavor that celebrates a passionate love story with stylish cinematics. It’s not the quintessential musical drama film, but it sure has some great memorable (and cinematic) qualities that will make it unforgettable.
As mentioned, Cyrano is directed by Joe Wright, with the filmmaker having a special affinity towards costumed period pieces and character-based narratives. Thus, Wright seems right at home when approaching the source material of Cyrano de Bergerac, a tale of wit, romance, and love. The director’s special affinity towards period piece endeavors is quite noticeable right from the opening scene of the feature, with Wright sweepingly bring the picture into focus with a musical song that displays the talent, production quality, and skillfulness that the movie calls for. Immediately, Wright interjects his visual dramatic style into the film; finding Cyrano to be right directorial decision for the director to choose. Again, I haven’t seen the theatrical stage show (neither the 2018 stage musical and the 1897 play, so I didn’t know what to expect, with only vague notion of memory recollection. So, when I heard musical songs in the movie, I was quite surprised by what I heard and something I wasn’t expecting, but I’ll get more to that later on. For the most part, Cyrano walks a fine line between both musical piece and a story driven drama, with Wright navigating his way through the classic source material of the stage play, but bringing the new lyrical number from the 2018 musical stage production. Incorporating these two ideas together into a new feature theatrical film works together in unison, with Wright’s direction perfectly harmonizing the picture for a grand and sweeping tale of romance, love, and self-pride.
This, of course, brings up the film’s music and the songs that are scattered throughout Cyrano. To be honest, I really like the songs. Yes, the don’t have the modernize style of influences in today’s music landscape such as Hamilton or In the Heights, but it doesn’t have the staleness of the Broadway showtunes of yesteryear. The songs featured in Cyrano have a very distinct and have their own personality, which are mostly its character professing their love and deepest wishes. The songs themselves are lyrically charged and written quite well, which does lend credence to the feature’s proceedings. From the sweeping opening of “Someone to Say”, to the vigorous fierce and wittily charged “When I Was Born”, to the whimsical “Every Letter”, to the desirable “I Need More”, to the passion filled “Overcome”, to the Disney-esque bad villain mantra “What I Deserve”, and even to the chilling and bittersweet sadness of Wherever I Fall”, the songs in Cyrano are beautifully rendered and fully realized in the movie.
Even looking beyond the music itself. Wright handles the material with tender and care; making Cyrano’s story teeming with the classic drama of love and loss that feels timeless. It’s not stale or anything like that as the script, which was penned by Erica Schmidt (the one behind the 2018 musical stage production), still carries the spirt of the iconic tale of Cyrano de Bergerac that many have known, yet the movie feels justifiable in its undertaking. It stands on its own two feet as the cinematic representation of those who are in love, those who are insecure of themselves, and those who are caught in the middle of it all. Wright never loses sight of the fact while executing Cyrano’s narrative progression, focusing on the romantic elements of that which is the core nature of the original material. To the end, I think that the film is quite lovely and wholesome; finding Wright demonstrates how he has returned to the top of his game with Cyrano; a movie that is almost a “love letter” (no pun intended) to classic romance period piece dramas.
In its presentation, Cyrano is undoubtedly a gorgeous and majestic production that speaks cinematic volumes in literally every single scene in the theatrical endeavor. From opening scene to closing scene, the movie’s visual background is bursting with dramatic style and sweeping aesthetics that complements the feature’s narration of love in a stunning period piece. It’s quite a feat to behold that Wright and his team were very fortunate to produce such an endeavor during amongst the COVID-19 pandemic (when mostly everything was shut down) in Italy for the backdrop setting. The result is something purely magical and lavishing with its production, which includes several “behind the scenes” key players in Cyrano, including Sarah Greenwood (production design), Katie Spencer (set decorations), Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran (costume designs), and the entire art department team. All of these players do an exceptional job in Cyrano, which helps bring to life the film’s setting in a beautiful and cinematic way. Speaking of cinematic, Wright’s movies have always been known for being quite “visually cinematic” and Cyrano is no different, with frequent cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (whose worked with Wright on Atonement, The Soloist, Anna Karenina, and Pan) showcasing a grandiose feeling that has some clever filmmaking techniques that are ripe with sweeping movements and dramatic poise. Definitely one of the most cinematic presentations in Wright’s career and big kudos for McGarvey for producing such lush and vibrant moments in Cyrano. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Aaron and Bryce Dessner, definitely is a great film soundtrack for those cinephiles out there. The musical composition presented works wonders to the ears in every scene, including those that include the songs. All the way around, the score in Cyrano is fantastic. Would definitely recommend it.
There are a few points of criticism that I had with Cyrano that, while not derailing in any way possible, still left a bit of fumbling in its own execution and overall plotting of details throughout the feature. How so? Well, for starters, the movie feels a little bit longer than it needed to be or maybe it needed better context in a few areas. It’s kind of hard to say, so I’ll probably say that Cyrano’s pacing is needed to be better handled. Certain scenes and / or moments are too short or too long, with those particular moments weighing the picture down and losing the amount of excitement to the proceedings. Personally, it’s not a terrible pacing, but there were a few times that I felt that certain scenes moved too fast or too slow and could’ve been handled with more attention to detail in Cyrano’s final editing process. Because of this, the movie, which clocks in at around 124 minutes (two hours and four minutes) feels longer than it should be. This is even to more to the point with the climax of the third act, which (again) could’ve been easily expanded upon to add more substance rather than just fleeting moments that spent. Again, it’s not a deal-breaker for me, but felt like Wright spent a lot more time during the film’s musical numbers (and doing reprisal sequences) than to add a few more scenes of context to help better understand the film’s fictional world of its lovers and fools.
My only other complain that I had with the movie was the feature’s ending. I know the story was going to end the way it did (judging from how the story was playing out in the film and from doing some research after watching Cyrano), but I thought there was going to be more added to the material. As it stands, the finale portion just feels like a tacked-on coda to a period piece love story drama that needed more substance during this particular part. What’s presented is okay, but needed a better context / substance for a more satisfied conclusion. Plus, it sort of just ends and I was like “that’s it?”. It’s not terrible, but it just felt that I there was going to something more to narrative and just ended up on the cutting room floor.
The cast in Cyrano is great across the board, with the film selecting several well-known acting talents to portray such iconic characters from the beloved love story. Of course, leading the charge in the film is actor Peter Dinklage, who portrays the infamous and ever-witty Cyrano de Bergerac. Dinklage, who is known for his roles in Game of Thrones, The Station Agent, and X-Men: Days of Future Past, has always been around Hollywood for several years and making a name for himself with caliber of acting and his “scene stealing” moments throughout several projects, including his popular portrayal of Tyrion Lannister. That being said, I would probably say that his performance as Cyrano in this movie almost outshines his iteration of Tyrion and gives the actor his best role in his career. Why so? Well, as mentioned, Dinklage had previous played the role on the Broadway musical adaptation of which this movie is based on. So, he understands the material (and its context) for what is called upon for an actor like himself to play. That familiarity plays to Dinklage’s strength and makes his main lead role in the film that much more palpable in the actor’s screen presence and his performance as Cyrano. Naturally, Dinklage is quite a gifted talent and proves his wit and charm to be a perfect match for a character like Cyrano. He definitely carries the film on his shoulder and masterfully does so, with equal parts a capable actor in the lead role as well as understand the inner struggle of the character. Plus, I didn’t know that Dinklage could sing. Because he’s not a natural vocal musician, he comes off as a bit halting sounding. Yet, Dinklage pulls it off as handles his lyrical moments with gusto that feels genuine to his character (and his voice) and never over singing in those parts. In the end, I think Dinklage is the absolute best in playing Cyrano de Bergerac and gives his best performance of his career.
Behind Dinklage, actress Haley Bennett does a good job in the role of Roxanne, the love interest for many male characters throughout the film’s narrative. As to be expected, the character herself (in a nutshell) came across as a somewhat contrive individual…. expressing her love in others and blinded by love itself as she pines for Christian yet totally oblivious to Cyrano’s romance towards her. This can make Roxanne (by her character build) a bit of a shallow as she sways throughout the movie in trying to find love amongst her male suitors, yet I think that was a little bit by design. So, it doesn’t bother me as much. That being said, it’s quite obvious that Roxanne is completely oblivious to seeing how much Cyrano is in love with her. For the actress, Bennett, who is known for her roles in Hardcore Henry, The Magnificent Seven, and The Girl on the Train, she actually does a terrific job in the role, playing Roxanne with enough whimsical nature of longing for love and wanting to be comfort to Cyrano himself. Like Dinklage, Bennett has played the character before on the Broadway musical of the movie, which makes quite comfortable and familiar to the portrayal of the love-stricken Roxanne. Thus, her performance in the movie is handled quite well. There are some that will call nepotism in the casting of Bennett for Wright’s Cyrano as the director and actress are dating one another, but, looking beyond that, I think that it was a smart choice to cast her in the role. The proof of that decision is “in the pudding” while watching Bennett’s Roxanne throughout the entire feature. Also, like Dinklage, Bennett does quite a good job in providing singing in the movie and she’s great. I think she’s better than Dinklage in that regard and is actually the best in the entire film.
The supporting players in Cyrano are the other two love interest for Roxanne, with the first being in the form of Christian de Neuvillette, a starry-eyed new recruit in Cyrano’s regiment that has caught the affection of the young lady, and Duke De Guiche, a powerful nobleman who wants to posse the heart of Roxanne for his own. Both characters are well-represented in the movie, with actors Kelvin Harrison Jr. (The Trail of the Chicago 7 and Elvis) playing Christian and Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Ready Player One) as De Guiche. Both make their mark on the feature within their one respected character, with Harrison Jr. delivering the young and naïve love of the man who is sight is set on proclaiming his love for Roxanne…. even though he doesn’t have the right witty and romantic words to say to the woman he loves. The sweetness of a young man in the throws of love fits perfectly with Harrison Jr.’s performance, which makes him a compelling and memorable of Christian, with the actor interjecting plenty of charismatic, especially in his scenes with Dinklage’s Cyrano. Like the rest of the cast, Harrison Jr. also sings in the movie and his moments in those scenes are fantastic and definitely handles himself well. Mendelsohn’s De Guiche Is another perfect fit, with the actor delivering such a classic villain that only he can play and pull off with great ease. The character is a straight-forward villain, so there isn’t much depth to him, but Mendelsohn plays to the moments great zeal. The only thing that I didn’t like was that his face had too much make-up in almost every scene (almost like it was caked on), so he looked like a clown. If that was the point, then good job, but it just came off as a bit of distraction to me. Like Dinklage, Mendelsohn sings in a more halting sounding voice and (surprisingly) is pretty good at doing it, especially for a non-musical acting talent. I kind of wished he provided more moments in sing in the film because he does quite well in those parts. Heck, he could do a voice for Disney villain in the near future and provide an evil villain song for it.
The rest of the cast, including actor Bashir Salauddin (South Side and Top Gun: Maverick) as Cyrano’s comrade friend Le Bret, actress Monica Dolan (Pride and Eye in the Sky) as Marie, 0actor Joshua James (Absentia and Life) as Valvert, actress Anjana Vasan (Killing Eve and Cinderella) as Sister Claire, actress Ruth Sheen (High Hopes and Another Year) as Mother Marthe, actor Mark Benton (Early Doors and The Second Coming) as Montfleury, and actor Peter Wright (Hot Fuzz and Another Year) as Ragueneau, make up the remaining minor supporting characters in Cyrano. Though most of the people only have a very limited screen time to make a impression of the feature (some are only in it for a one or two scenes), most (if not all) deliver some quality acting that matches both the main principle cast and Wright’s vision for the film.
A great love story, men fighting for the heart of a young maiden, and match that could never be in the movie Cyrano. Director Joe Wright’s latest film takes on the classic narrative of Cyrano de Bergerac for a film musical adaptation of the Broadway show of the same name, projecting lyrical prose and lavishing witty throughout the production. While the feature stumbles a few times in its storytelling and few other moments, the movie itself is a visual musical drama, especially thanks to Wright’s direction, a solid representation of story, a stunning visual presentation, good songs (and singing), and a solid cast, with a notable performance from Dinklage. Personally, I liked this movie. It was something I wasn’t expected (being a musical and all), but I thought the music aspect actually worked and fit nicely into the narrative. Plus, the whole visual aesthetics of the feature were terrific, and the cast were solid. A few wonky parts, especially near the end, were a bit much, but I felt like the Wright did a great job. Thus, my recommendation for the film would be a highly favorable “highly recommended” one, especially if you are a fan of the classic 1987 stage play or even the 2018 musical stage production. In the end, I think that Wright embraces the spirt of the narrative with his interpretation of Cyrano, a beloved tale of romance and wit that is visually lush and impressive by showcasing a beautiful cinematic retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac’s story, his love for Roxanne, his camaraderie with Christian, and (above all else) his charming mastery of prose.
Also, as a personal side note, Cyrano is my 650th movie review since I’ve started blogging. This is truly a huge and celebratory milestone for me! I wanted give a special thank you to all my readers, followers, and fellow bloggers for reading my movie reviews and giving me this platform to share (with you guys) my views on cinematic tales.
4.3 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)
Released On: February 25th, 2022
Reviewed On: October 8th, 2022
Cyrano is 124 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for some strong violence, suggestive and thematic material, and brief language