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"CYRANO"
(2021) (Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Musical: Unable to tell a high society woman how he feels about her, a French nobleman ends up helping the man she's smitten with woo her through his words.
PLOT:

It's the 1600s and Cyrano de Bergerac (PETER DINKLAGE) is a French nobleman serving in the King's army who's a renowned duelist and poetic wordsmith. Despite his many talents, his diminutive size results in him believing he's not worthy of the potential affections of his longtime friend, Roxanne (HALEY BENNETT).

Yet, knowing that Count De Guiche (BEN MENDELSOHN) is interested in her, and after confessing his true feelings about her to his fellow soldier and friend, Le Bret (BASHIR SALAHUDDIN), Cyrano has his hopes raised upon learning that Roxanne wants to meet him privately the following day.

But that's to inform Cyrano of her secret love, newly arrived soldier Christian de Neuvillette (KELVIN HARRISON JR.). Cyrano is crushed, but doesn't let on, and ever loyal to Roxanne, he promises to befriend Christian, protect him from harm, and have him write to her. The only problem is the young man has no such skills, resulting in Cyrano penning the love letters, all of which cause Roxanne to fall ever more in love with Christian.

As that complicated arrangement and ruse continue, all involved must contend with De Guiche becoming increasingly impatient regarding his romantic overtures toward Roxanne, all of which puts everyone at risk.

OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10

Every year, around this time, film critics of the world unite to announce their dismay, shock, and sometimes vehement anger over the latest Oscar nominations. As if some unspeakable injustice has been committed, they head to their blogs, websites, and social media to denounce the Academy and decry that its voting members are out of touch, wrong, and have lost their collective minds. And they often do so as if society and even humanity are now that much closer to the verge of extinction.

I am not one of those reviewers as I vote in two similar "what's best" awards and believe in the principle of whoever gets the most votes wins. But I also realize that not everything is always fair in these regards, and that unbalanced award budgets, people and genre prejudices, and a host of other factors come into play and can swing the results.

And thus, I'm not surprised that "Cyrano" only nabbed one nomination from the recent Oscar preliminary voting (for Costumes). And that's because the releasing studio, MGM, completely dropped the ball with this release in terms of getting it out in front of voters, be they critics or Academy members. Yes, I realize there are only so many voting slots for the multitude of released films. But this handsomely mounted, not to mention entertaining and emotionally engaging offering easily could have garnered noms in a slew of categories had more voters seen it in time.

Directed by Joe Wright ("Pride and Prejudice," "Atonement") who works from a screenplay by Erica Schmidt (who wrote and directed the 2018 stage musical of the same name), the film begins as a lighthearted, witty, and entertaining romp and slowly segues through the familiar Cyrano romantic stand-in trappings into something far more profound and moving.

And for how all of that plays out, the film easily could and - okay, should -- have also been nominated for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, Production Design, Score, and Best Actor. The latter would have been for the great Peter Dinklage who's rarely if ever been better than he is here in the title role.

For those familiar with the work - most likely via the Steve Martian film "Roxanne" - the most immediately noticeable thing about the protagonist is his huge proboscis. Shaking things up, Schmidt - who's married to Dinklage in real life and cast him as the lead in her stage production - has decided instead to go with what's already obvious, the actor's height.

The physical switch goes off without a hitch regarding being the character's overt rationale and reluctance to confess his secret love for his long-time friend and contemporary, Roxanne (Haley Bennett). Before he gets the chance to finally do so, she admits to having fallen for a newly arrived soldier, Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.).

Accepting his apparent lot in life and being ever loyal to his friend, Cyrano honors her request that he befriend and protect the young man, while also getting him to pen her some love letters. As in most if not all previous adaptations of Edmond Rostand's 1897 work, Cyrano ends up writing those himself, thus expressing his feelings toward her, albeit in a roundabout way. And with the powerful De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn) also vying for her heart, it's a guess - at least for those not familiar with the work - how things will play out.

What did surprise me - not being familiar with the recent stage play adaptation - was this arriving in the form of a musical. Some of the numbers are light and fun with creative blocking and choreography, but the standout is "Wherever I Fall" that appears late in the third act and is an amazing piece of work.

But then again, that's pretty much true for all aspects of the overall film. I loved every moment of "Cyrano" and thus rate the film an 8 out of 10.




Reviewed November 17, 2021 / Posted February 25, 2022


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