Cyrano is Joe Wright’s big-screen musical adaptation based on the award-winning stage play and musical of the same name. The film stars Peter Dinklage as Cyrano de Bergerac, a poet and swordsman who wants nothing more than to tell Roxanne (Haley Bennett) that he has feelings for her. One evening, while Roxanne is attending a play, Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) enters the auditorium locking eyes with her — it is love at first sight. A few evenings later, Roxanne assigns Cyrano to look after Christian and protect him at all costs, not realizing that Cyrano is in love with her. Being a man of his word, Cyrano befriends Christian only to learn that Christian does not believe he is articulate enough to tell Roxanne how he feels. Cyrano and Christian form an agreement where Cyrano will write letters that perfectly capture Christian’s true feelings about Roxanne.
Joe Wright’s best films have always been period pieces, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Cyrano ranks up there as one of his finest outings. Before starting the screening, Wright came on stage to share that the Telluride crowd was the first audience in the world to see this movie outside of his mum. He noted that there were no test screenings prior, thanks to COVID-19, so Telluride is serving as the film’s world premiere and initial test screenings.
Cyrano is a beautiful-looking film. Wright once again showcases that he is a gifted filmmaker that was truly passionate about the source material. The cinematography, makeup, and costume design are all around superb. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui‘s choreography is absolutely fantastic. Big screen musicals aren’t exactly the easiest things to bring to life, but Cherkaoui pulls it off. The film features several big musical moments as well as several smaller and intimate ones. All of them are brought to life perfectly.
When it comes to the performances, one should know that while several actors are in the film, the story is centered around Peter Dinklage’s Cyrano, Haley Bennett’s Roxanne, and Kelvin Harrison Jr’s Christian. All three of these actors bring their A-game, but it is Dinklage who ultimately steals the show. He is PHENOMENAL in this role, which isn’t much of a surprise considering that he has been consistently great since the very beginning of his career. However, with this role, in particular, audiences see how versatile an actor he is. His performance strikes that perfect balance of comedic and dramatic. You laugh with his character, and you cry for his character. Oh, and you get to hear him sing, which, surprise surprise, he is also pretty damn great at too.
In terms of Dinklage’s co-stars, Haley Bennett has been criminally underrated for over a decade now. I remember being a fan of her work ever since her first role in Music & Lyrics, released in 2007. Bennett has not become a bigger name by now is truly unbelievable, especially after working with such notable directors as Warren Beatty, Tate Taylor, Ron Howard, and Antoine Fuqua. She is a tremendous talent, and Cyrano gives her yet another role where she shines very brightly, I may add. She plays off Dinklage and Kelvin Harrison Jr with such ease and has such dynamic chemistry with both of them.
Kelvin Harrison Jr has been one of those up-and-coming actors I have been championing ever since I saw him in LUCE back at Sundance in 2019. As an actor, Harrison Jr. commands the screen whenever he is on it. Films like LUCE and Waves showcased his dramatic side, while films like The High Note and The Photograph gave him a chance to find his comedic side. His performance in Cyrano combines comedy with drama, but this isn’t really a performance that relies on too much of either. In fact, I would say that Harrison Jr plays the character as “a straight man” where he is very reasonable and relatable. He is very charming as Christian, but the performance is never showy in any way. I enjoyed seeing him in this kind of role, and I hope he gets more opportunities to play characters like Christian in future projects.
Regarding the negatives, I found a few scenes in the film to be a bit too bright, but I suspect those scenes will be color corrected and darkened before the film is released in December. The film is also too long and could use a little tightening up in the editing department. I think the film as a whole is pretty damn good, but with some minor tweaking, it could be fantastic.
In closing, Cyrano is the type of film that I can see having a cult following. I believe fans of period dramas are going to fall in love with this film. I also believe that Peter Dinklage does have a good shot of being nominated for this portrayal of Cyrano. He brings something fresh and new to this iconic character, arguably his best performance to date. As a hardcore musical and theater fan who also happens to have a soft spot for well-crafted period pieces, I think Cyrano is a win/win.