REVIEW: New movie musical ‘Cyrano’ manages to be fascinating and frustrating at the same time
Feb 24, 2022, 1:12 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — Cyrano is a movie that when you look at it, is as tailor-made for a Valentine’s Day release as any movie could be.
It’s a period musical drama based on the epic love story of Cyrano de Bergerac, the man who loves Roxanne but helps another man win her heart.
It tells a tale of lifelong yearning for someone and also love at first sight; physical attraction to one person, intellectual attraction to another; passionate love letters and fumbling verbal interactions; songs and music, heartbreak and tragedy.
It’s directed by Joe Wright, the same man who made Academy Award-nominated films Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina, Atonement and Darkest Hour.
Yet it is not being released on, or even before, Valentine’s Day. It’s been finished since December, but MGM Studios has kept it on the shelf until the end of February.
Unfortunately, it becomes apparent very quickly into the movie why that decision was made. Cyrano is a frustrating tug-of-war between a great idea, a few truly emotional moments, and some head-scratching film-making choices and distracting singing.
Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage of Elf and “Game of Thrones” fame) is a professional soldier who is just as spectacular with wordplay as he is with the sword. For many years he has loved a girl from his hometown named Roxanne (Haley Bennett).
But he’s never told her this, even though they are close friends, because he’s convinced his appearance renders him unworthy of her love.
Unfortunately for Cyrano, when he does work up the courage do so, he finds out Roxanne has fallen in love, at first sight, with the handsome Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.)
To make things worse, Christian will be joining the Cyrano’s regiment and Roxanne wants him to befriend Christian and help get the two of them together.
Christian is also smitten with Roxanne, but fears he cannot match her fierce intellect or love of literature, so Cyrano offers to use his own skill with the pen to write love letters to her on Christian’s behalf and in his name.
Thus begins a medieval version of “catfishing” where Roxanne believes the swoon-worthy messages she receives to be from one person, when they are in fact from someone else.
Eventually, the love triangle reaches a tipping point and each of them must make hard, even heartbreaking decisions about how to resolve it.
THINGS I LIKED
From the moment I heard about this movie, I was intrigued by the concept of Cyrano being someone with dwarfism, rather than just someone with a big nose, as the character has typically been portrayed.
I feel like that decision alone creates a much more genuine sense of self-doubt in Cyrano and more believable fear that his profession of love would be rejected, whether by Roxanne, society, or both.
That familiarity with the characters is evident as his portrayal of Cyrano and hers of Roxanne were one of the movie’s biggest strengths, and Bennett’s singing voice is by far the best one in the film.
The costuming, which has been nominated for an Academy Award, was also a highlight for me, as was the period setting (late 1600’s France) and location. Much of the filming took place in a real town in Sicily, and some even on the slopes of an active volcano.
A few of the movie’s songs, with music by Bryce and Aaron Dessner and lyrics by Matt Berninger and Carin Besser, were also beautiful and memorable, particularly “Someone To Say,” “I Need More,” “Every Letter” and “Wherever I Fall.”
Unfortunately, some of the musical moments also proved to be a huge distraction and took me right out of the film. Director Wright’s decision to have the songs sung live on set (similar to 2012’s Les Miserables with Hugh Jackman) only highlighted those who were talented singers and those who were not.
In many cases it robbed certain scenes and musical numbers of their potential emotional impact and felt out-of-sync with the rest of the movie.
Cyrano is rated PG-13 for some strong violence, thematic and suggestive material, and brief language. The run time is 2 hrs 4 mins.
Much as Cyrano is torn between being selfless (helping Christian because he believes it will make Roxanne happy) and selfish (sending more letters to her in Christian’s name than even Christian knew about), I was torn between liking and being frustrated with this movie.
I really did like some of it. It was emotionally engaging at times. It even made my teenage daughter and I shed a tear or two.
Unfortunately, to enjoy this movie you will probably have to choose to ignore some things and I’m not sure how many people will be able to do it.
I think Cyrano is worth a look, but ultimately left a lot of its potential unfulfilled.
Final Rating: TWO & A HALF out of FOUR STARS
WHERE TO WATCH
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.