See-ruh-now, Sear-rah-n-oh, whichever way you pronounce it, has a long history in cinema. When playwright Edmond Rostand penned this infamous love story in 1897, it was only three years from then that the first adaptation of it was made. Since then, the core story has gone through several adaptations and derivative versions, the story might just be the most enduring romance story in cinema. With the character being undertaken by the likes of Gerard Depardieu and Steve Martin in the past, now it’s the turn of Tyrion Lannister himself Peter Dinklage, with a script written by his wife Erica Schmidt. Although this film has recently been the recipient of many nominations, most of those come in the forms of design, and while there is no denying that Cyrano is a beautifully designed film and the casting of Dinklage was a great way to add a unique twist, the film feels linguistically underwhelming in the musical and non-musical moments.
Cyrano is the type of project however that is a designers dream to work on. The setting is on a whole different level of immersion, the energy in the background is just as important as the energy in the foreground. The costumes match the beauty of the film’s renaissance setting, honestly, for most of the film you are more in awe with how the film looks rather than how it plays out. You hear a lot about how a film’s setting can in itself be a character of the story, I have no doubt that many people will say the same about Cyrano, and while I’m still on the fence with this conclusion, I can at least see where other would be coming from. With a budget of only $30 million dollars, it’s pretty economical with how it’s achieved this beauty.
The aesthetic beauty of Cyrano is only made more beautiful by the amazing cinematography of Seamus McGarvey. I find it personally remarkable how many times this man’s cinematography has often been the best part of the films he’s worked on. Even on the bad films he’s worked on such as Fifty Shades of Grey or Life, he is able to a least make them visually appealing. McGarvey’s handiwork comes into action in Cyrano with most of his shots hammering home a compelling love triangle between Cyrano, Roxanne (Haley Bennett) and Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.).
Dinklage himself gives a performance full of quick wit and clear indications of heartache within the character that he has to carry for the duration of the film. Instead of the character iconic imperfection of a long nose, this Cyrano is mocked for his height, but that doesn’t mean he can’t fight back with a sharp sword and even sharper tongue. Although not the strongest singer, Dinklage’s performance is still enough to warrant merit from audiences. Haley Bennett is also very impressive as Roxanne, but in the case of Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Christian, I felt he was the weakest of the three. You could make the case that he gives an awkward performance because he plays an awkward romantic, but even the most hopeless romantic could have delivered some of his dialogue with more heart.
Cyrano (the play) is famously written in rhyming couplets, which is deployed in the films several musical numbers, and also the odd instance of spoken dialogue. I found this technique much more effective in the character dialogue, but after a while, it abandons it completely just when I was starting to praise the film’s ambitious writing. I started to think that the film would have been a lot more impressive if it had stuck to the play’s linguistic structure, not only would it be faithful but also consistent in its language.
The biggest disappointment however is its musical numbers, because there isn’t a single song in Cyrano that will not stick with you. It’s easy to judge the success of an original song in a musical, long after the film has had its time on the silver screen, you still hear it on the radio, you hear people hum it, essentially you can judge a great musical by how infectious its songs are. Cyrano just doesn’t have that infectious song that you will still be hearing years in the future. This is director Joe Wright’s first musical, but previously helming the most famous romance story of all time, Pride and Prejudice, he has the credibility to knock it out of the park the first time and he just doesn’t.
Interestingly enough, the play is responsible for the invention of the word panache, which is ironic because panache is exactly what this film needed. There’s no real ambition with Cyrano and because of this lack of ambition, there is nothing, besides how great it looks, that demands your focus, not even its musical numbers. I have no protest against it being nominated for best production and costume design, I dare say it could actually win some of those nominations, but you can’t ride on a film looking good. I guess what I’m trying to summarise here is that Cyrano is a specious film.
Final Result: 4/10 – Below Average
Have you seen Cyrano? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: The Batman