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Review: Short in stature but giant in heart, Cyrano is a big-screen beauty

Joe Wright’s 2022 re-telling of the classic true story expands the tale’s grandeur but falls in its polish.

By Matthew Royer, News Editor

Peter Dinklage (R) and Haley Bennett (L) star as Cyrano and Roxanne in "Cyrano" (2022). (Photo Courtesy of MGM Studios)

Opting for dwarfism instead of the classic engorged facial features, Cyrano de Bergerac and viewers have to wrestle with a bigger challenge than just “becoming handsome.”

“Cyrano” (2022), directed by period-piece master Joe Wright, best known for 2007’s “Pride and Prejudice,” tackles a new look at an overtold epic. Adapted from the 2018 stage musical, Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) is a talented French military man born with dwarfism. The titular character has taken up many talents those around him would not expect from a man of his size. Whether it is his skills as a duelist or his way with words as a poet, Cyrano can hold his own with almost anyone, but his most colossal battle is one of love.

Enter Roxanne (Haley Bennett), a beautiful woman who has been courted by De Guiche (Ben Mendohlson), the local Duke. While Cyrano has pined over his friend Roxanne for years, he has given himself an oath “to love her from afar,” however, this comes to a halt when Roxanne falls for Christian de Neuvillette (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a guard in his regiment. With Cyrano’s help, Christian uses his leader’s poetry to woo Roxanne, but instead of drifting away, this only brings Cyrano closer to Roxanne.

While every frame of the film comes across as a well-thought-out painting, the real star of the experience is the emotion and strength in the acting. Reprising their roles from the off-Broadway stage musical, Dinklage and Bennett have tremendous chemistry as the two leads. The former in particular embraces the role of the man who makes up for his size with his words, doing the best he can with the material, commanding every scene crafted by screenwriter Erica Schmidt. Supporting lead Harrison Jr. allows the film to find its rhythm, especially once the ‘musical’ finds its place. The love triangle only represented by Cyrano’s thoughts can still be understood through the actors’ undertones. ‘Reading between the lines,’ while a played-out concept, can be done through the mannerisms and temper portrayed throughout.

While being nominated for two Golden Globes — “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” and “Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” — the only category the film is nominated for at the Academy Awards is costume design. Costume designers Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran help dress every character to match a specific time and feeling depending on the scene. With scenes shot in locations such as a grand theater or even the battles of the Thirty Years' War between France and Spain, every outfit matches its set brilliantly, even taking creative liberties by adding more pizzazz to details shown on screen.

While some filmgoers may be seeing the movie for the music or its acting, a musical is nothing without its choreography. In most musicals, dance or movement can only be seen within the film’s musical numbers. Joe Wright instead features a free-flowing, almost interpretive dance number throughout all three acts of the film. Each line or song can be matched up alongside a change of pace or movement that not only looks beautiful but advances the plot alongside it.

While music should be the star of “Cyrano,” it is almost the complete opposite.

Using preestablished lyrics from the stage musical, the composition and score crafted by Grammy-nominated twin brothers Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner, members of rock band The National, can feel somewhat unpolished and leave viewers feeling they have missed a piece of the puzzle. While this is the coarse style of The National and their music, it may not be perfect for a movie-musical. This can be felt especially in the score’s repetition; however, this does help create a sense of unease in the most critical moments of the plot.

Beautiful but not perfect, “Cyrano” should be seen for its acting and to help frame yet another opinion of this polarizing film.

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