Cyrano Review: Rewriting a Classic

Adapting classics is a risky affair. It can be difficult for a filmmaker to create his or her unique vision if they’re also trying to be respectful of the source material and previous adaptations. Joe Wright is no stranger to this challenge. He’s behind some great adaptations of classic literature, like 2005’s Pride & Prejudice and the, in my opinion, underrated  2012 Anna Karenina. But he’s also behind some…not so great adaptations…I’m looking at you, Pan! Wright’s latest effort Cyrano — an adaptation of Erica Schmidt’s stage musical Cyrano, which itself is a re-imaging of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac — falls somewhere between these extremes.

Peter Dinklage assumes the titular role and foregoes the traditional prosthetic nose. Instead his stature is used as Cyrano’s obstacle to voicing his love to Roxanne (Haley Bennett), a childhood friend. To Cyrano’s heartbreak, Roxanne falls for Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a handsome soldier who lacks Cyrano’s way with words and is unable to communicate his feelings for Roxanne. Not wanting Roxanne to feel rejected and hurt, Cyrano offers his assistance to Christian and writes the words Christian can’t articulate, which are the words he dares not say himself.

A classic tale of unrequited love, Cyrano is above all else, a wonderful showcase for Dinklage’s talents. While he more than proved himself with Game of Thrones, Dinklage shows once again that he’s a formidable actor capable of carrying a film on his own. Bennett and Harrison Jr. both turn in great performances as well, particularly delivering the musical numbers with great aplomb, despite the songs being lacklustre with some bordering on mediocre.

Where Cyrano excels is in the world that Wright builds. The production design is joyful and accentuates the pomposity of Cyrano’s wealthy class (which is also brilliantly exemplified by Ben Mendelsohn’s De Guiche). The Oscar-nominated costume design is vibrant and textured. There are plenty of nods to the source material’s stage origins, which are blended nicely with Wright’s cinematic skills and trademark theatricality. Wright’s take on Cyrano is a good interpretation of the play, but it fails to capture its heartbreak and despair, despite Dinklage’s best efforts.

Cyrano is available on VOD.