Adapted from Edmond Rostand's play and Erica Schmidt's stage musical adaptation, Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) helps Christian de Neuvillette (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) win the heart of the beautiful Roxanne (Haley Bennett) with his poetry, but soon finds himself caught in a love triangle between them
There's something about 'Cyrano' that feels diametrically opposed and completely natural all at the same.
On the one hand, Peter Dinklage initially feels like a complete miscast for the long-beaked French swashbuckler. Yet, when you watch him battle ten goons in a torchlit alleyway after verbally sparring with several others just in a previous scene, he's utterly perfect for it. Likewise, throwing musical accompaniments by The National, Ben Folds, and Glen Hansard into the pot seems like it's too much for the sake of being too much, but when it comes to the moment, it's exactly the kind of big-hearted gesture that fits with the story.
Again and again, Joe Wright's 'Cyrano' goes for the swirling, romantic, over-the-top option. After all, the very word 'panache' came into being from the original play, so why would this latest adaptation fail to do anything less? Dinklage's performance is charged with so many conflicting emotions - shame, pride, love, rage - and keeps them all bubbling just underneath the surface. Haley Bennett, by comparison, is able to play the love interest of Roxanne without giving away agency or succumbing to obvious pitfalls. Likewise, Kelvin Harrison Jr. is much more sympathetic as Christian than in previous adaptations, playing him like he's lovesick rather than a single-minded fool.
Seamus McGarvey's sumptuous cinematography captures the pale marble and the soft light that surrounds them all, while the sweeping orchestral score and the songs by Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Matt Berninger and Carin Besser gives the soul and the charge it needs to be something more than just a stuffy revisit of a well-trod story. Of course, it can't be said that 'Cyrano' enjoys any kind of subtlety or leaves anything to chance. So much of the story is firing out on full, everyone is singing their hearts out, it's all so much that it can sometimes feel overpowering, even overbearing at certain points.
The song choices are placed into the stream of the movie almost like soliloquy, but the way in which Joe Wright stages them with McGarvey's cinematography and Sarah Greenwood's production design turns them into something like a torch song for a music video in the '90s, complete with billowing curtains and heartbreaking lyrics.
Yet, for all of that, 'Cyrano' is something unique in the current landscape. It's undeniably earnest, but it's not infantilised. You spend so much of the movie frustrated by Peter Dinklage's character refusing to get out of his own, yet he's so likeable and so damn charming that you can't stay mad at him. Likewise, Haley Bennett's character at once seems shallow, but then you can see how it is that two men can fall head over heels for her. Allowing for such clashes to exist makes 'Cyrano' feel unique, even though the story's been adapted many times before.
'Cyrano' is romantic, lush, with a captivating central performance by Peter Dinklage. It may stumble in parts under the weight of itself, but you can't deny its courage or its heart.