There is a scene at the beginning Cyrano– a musical adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s classic 1897 play – in which the lyric holder advises a budding baker and poet on how to choose his literary metaphors. The baker is struggling to make anything about stars and constellations work, and Cyrano kindly suggests that an analogy closer to home might be more appropriate. You know, the flesh of the dough, the sensuality of kneading, the warmth and the visceral pleasure of fresh bread.
“Oh!” enthuses the baker. The music swells and the camera dips into large bowls of plump dough worked by sexually floured hands, fingers teasing and squeezing… and it’s all slightly squicky and slightly laughable, seriously sucking but ineptly falling into parody.
It’s not emblematic of all it’s bad with Cyrano, but it hits many of those discordant notes. It’s a movie that feels more like a suggestion of itself than an actual movie like this was made to be a movie within a movie and we accidentally got the whole thing instead of just the snippets of choice. Because, like, the idea of this movie is better than the movie itself.
Peter Dinklage – one of the best actors working today – played Cyrano de Bergerac, moving and eloquent, without the big nose but still lacking in confidence when it comes to admitting his feelings to the woman he loves. adore? Love this. And he can sing! He can do sword fighting! But it’s missing way too many things that are absolutely necessary for this story to work, including the big one: we have to believe that this woman he desires is worthy of his devotion. And there is nothing here to convince us of that.
Roxanne (Haley Bennett) is very pretty, but she comes across as silly and superficial at best. How can she honestly believe she fell in love with a handsome soldier, Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), just by seeing him in a crowded public space? How can she maintain her delusion when the clumsy, clumsy words that come out of her mouth when she finally Is speak with him so as not to match, even remotely, the sweet and charming poetry of his letters – which were, of course, written by Cyrano, expressing his own passion for Roxanne? How does she not know her smitten correspondent Cyrano himself, when he takes over from Christian to woo her, from a hiding place, on his balcony one evening? She has known Cyrano since she was a child! She knows her voice!
There’s only one explanation for this: she’s an idiot.
It’s not romantic, except in the most depressing, tragic interpretation of the word. There’s no humor, no absurdity in this take on one of literature’s great upset lovers, just misery and pain. (I now look forward to re-watching the 1987 contemporary romantic comedy on Cyrano de Bergerac,Roxanne, with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah, which I remember being utterly delightful.) I don’t think we intend to take this as that dark. There are touches of fairytale whimsy; certainly Ben Mendelsohn as the absolutely vile nobleman pursuing Roxanne is close to pantomime camp. And there is glorious color and light in the Sicilian locations (the action has been moved from France); beautiful cinematography is by Seamus McGarvey, who also shot the magic The greatest showman and2012’s boldly styled Anna Karenina.
This Anna Karenina was also from Cyrano director Joe Wright, and I’m afraid this is just another baffling misstep by the filmmaker. He began by directing daring and captivating films such as Atonement and a sexy and visceral Pride and Prejudicebut recently delved into stuff like darkest hour (none but Gary Oldman stomping around in a Winston Churchill suit) and the disastrous Stove (an embarrassingly empty pastiche of beloved action blockbusters).
I’m tempted to wonder if it all works better on stage; this is based on the off-Broadway play by Erica Schmidt. (She’s married to Peter Dinklage, and they both say the part wasn’t written with him in mind.) But the music, also taken from the play and written by band The National, is downbeat at best. , and often harsh and jarring. The inconvenience ofCyrano is as confusing as it is unavoidable.