Cyrano (2021)

A great love story. Of three people.

A pleasant surprise. Cyrano is not perfect, yet it is a very enjoyable film. This film got lost in the mainstream release of films last year.

Cyrano is not an over the top production, yet it has spectacular production values – this was a film with a grand vision. Classics of literature are risky, but they usually find an audience. Cyrano somehow did not. I’m baffled.

Musicals. I usually stay away from them. Costume films. Usually avoid. Adapted stage plays. Not me. So why this one?

I do not know, but it has a lot to do with Peter Drinklage. Drinklage (Game of Thrones, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, Death at a Funeral) has been around a long time, but he’s peaking in his 50s. Cyrano is a great fit for his talents. Instead of the character having a large nose, he is a little person. Of course, Cyrano is in love with Roxanne, his special friend, but he hides his love from her.

Cyrano is a superb swordsman. He can outfight men much bigger, who are less determined and less passionate. If there is one towering strength, Cyrano has passion, for life, and Roxanne. He is also know as a wordsmith whose poetry is in great demand.

Cyrano writes love letters to Roxanne that he never sends. One day she catches a glimpse of Christian, a new guardsman. For her it is love at first sight, as it is for him. Cyrano offers to help Christian woo Roxanne by writing the letters that captures her heart. And so it begins, letter after letter. Christian and Roxanne fall in love, with Cyrano the confidant of both, and the letter writer for Christian.

Christian and Roxanne meet and it is obvious that he cannot speak as his letters. Complications abound. The Duke also pines for Roxanne and wants to possess her at any cost. In response, Roxanne secretly marries Christian, but the angry Duke sends Cyrano and Christian to the front where the war is being raging. Existence is difficult, freezing weather and lack of food, but the letters continue. Conflict develops between Christian and Cyrano as Christian discovers the deep love Cyrano has for Roxanne, and she for the letter writer, not necessarily Christian. The Duke orders the guards on a suicide mission and Christian runs into battle. Mortally wounded, Christian demands that Cyrano confess to Roxanne.

Three years later, still friends, Roxanne learns the truth that Cyrano wrote the letters and always loved her, though he is dying of old war wounds. The truth at last.

Erica Schmidt adapted the screenplay from her play, which she also produced and. The songs are written by Bryce Dessner, Aaron Dessner and Matt Berninger, members of the band National. I enjoyed the songs, and even the dancing was okay. Again, I’m not a musical guy, sudden breaking into song is weird.

Joining Drinklage in the film is Haley Bennett, as Roxanne, who performed the role in the original production. She is superb in the role and a wonderful singer. Kelvin Harrison Jr. is Christian and Ben Mendelsohn as the Duke are quite good in their characters.

The film was directed by veteran Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Hanna, Darkest Hour, The Soloist), who captures the style of the period, but does not disappear into it. The film maintains a contemporary vibe, which is a-okay with me.

Perhaps the reason I enjoyed this film is the reason many critics did not. Reviews called the film dull and lacking of fiery passion from the main character. Drinklage is not Jose Ferrer or Steve Martin, he delivers a measured performance that still contains torment. The songs were dismissed as pedestrian and the action not evoking much energy. Perhaps the music was not up to Broadway standards with a pop hit, but I felt they conveyed the conviction of the characters and had heart. If you want swordplay, dial up an Errol Flynn flick.

The story of Cyrano has been told many times on stage and screen. Among them:

Cyrano, My Love (2018) was a variation on the play and the playwright.

Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) starred Gérard Depardieu.

Roxanne (1987) was a contemporary comedy starring Steve Martin.

Cyrano and d’Artagnan (1964) Jose Ferrer again plays Cyrano in a forgettable max-up of two different literary characters.

Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) starring Jose Ferrer who won both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for the romantic, swashbuckling portrayal.

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