At long last, the film adaptation of Cyrano is finally opening in wide release after its initial Oscar-qualifying run in December.
I had the chance to see the film in New York back at the end of November. It was part of a dedicated CCA press day featuring the cast and crew. At the time, I was thinking I would be running my coverage in mid-January. This is because the plan had been for the wide release to come back in January. Instead, MGM postponed the release until the end of February. Is it because they saw the writing on the wall with Oscar nominations? Or is it because of the Omicron surge? Your guess is as good as mine. Anyway, it’s now playing and makes for solid distraction from world events right now. That is, if you can pull your eyes away just long enough from the news.
Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) has never met a challenge he couldn’t face. He’s also very good with wordplay and jousts or duels don’t stop him. But as his friend, Le Bret (Bashir Salahuddin), reminds him, his short height is a disadvantage when it comes to love. In short, Cyrano has feelings for Roxanne (Haley Bennett) but believes to be unworthy of her love. Roxanne, meanwhile, becomes interested in a new member of the King’s Guard, Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). After Roxanne confides in Cyrano, he encourages Christian to write her letters. Ultimately, Cyrano ends up being the one to write letters and truly reveal his feelings. At the same time, Duke De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn is also suiting her. It’s quite the love triangle and a tale of wit, love, and courage!
Where the stage musical may have felt more contemporary, the filmmakers take full advantage of what the Italy locales have to offer. The pandemic also means having to get creative, too. A set that would otherwise be indoors is now outdoors so as to be open air. Some of the Italian scenery also makes for beautiful visuals. However, it’s almost certainly going to be Joe Wright‘s last time shooting on an active volcano. Mount Etna actually erupted!
Erica Schmidt’s screenplay is based on the 2018 stage play that she wrote and directed, which is turn was based on Edmond Rostand’s classic 1897 play. Regarding the stage musical, the music by Aaron and Bryce Dessner and lyrics by Matt Berninger and Carin Besser. The Dessner brothers return to provide the score for the feature film.
One prominent difference from the original stage play is taking the focus away from Cyrano’s nose. A large nose, more often than not, is an antisemitic stereotype and we’re all the better that Erica Schmidt makes this change. In turn, the decision to do so ends up giving her husband, Peter Dinklage, the chance to shine on both the stage and screen. He makes the role his own. It’s just a shame that the actor misses out on an Oscar nomination. His performance was one of the best performances of last year. As it turns out, the film’s sole Oscar nomination is for the costume design.
Sound is very important to Cyrano. Cyrano is one of those films where watching on the big screen is important not just for the communal experience but because of the sound design. More often than not, it is the tentpole blockbuster that must be seen in theaters. Musicals are no different. This is certainly a musical that was designed with theaters in mind. The theatrical experience is so important for director Joe Wright that had the film wrapped and been ready to go in 2020, he would have delayed the release for as long as possible.
This new take on Cyrano de Bergerac is very fitting for the MGM canon. Would Arthur Freed have given it the greenlight during his era of running the musicals within the Freed Unit? I don’t know but I’d like to think so. At the end of the day, Cyrano is a film about connection, something that is more important than ever as a result of the pandemic.
DIRECTOR: Joe Wright
SCREENWRITER: Erica Schmidt
CAST: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Dolan
MGM released Cyrano in theaters on December 17, 2021. The film is now playing in wide release.
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