Though it only dates back to 1897, the story of Cyrano de Bergerac already feels like a tale as old as time. Adapted in every setting from feudal Japan to present-day high school, Edmond Rostand’s play sees the less-than-ladykiller Cyrano helping the dashing Christian, his rival for the affections of fair Roxanne, win her hand despite his own interest.
As the public can see in the first trailer uploaded just this morning, Joe Wright’s new big-screen mounting of the old text stays faithful to its seventeenth-century setting, while making a handful of key changes. For one, putting Peter Dinklage in the lead role alters the details of plot, if not its mechanics; where Cyrano’s oversized schnoz originally made him an undesirable quantity insecure about his pursuit of Roxanne (Haley Bennett), this time around, Dinklage’s actual achondroplasia convinces him that he can never be with the apple of his eye and that she’d be better off with Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr).
But the most noticeable liberty taken has to be the musical numbers, in keeping with the same genre mashup Wright previously explored with the widely-panned Pan. Rather than adapting the play directly, the film works from a 2018 musical penned by Erica Schmidt, who has a screenplay credit on Wright’s latest project and also happens to be Dinklage’s wife. (The music and lyrics for Schmidt’s stage show were written by the members of the National, who lend their talents again here.)
The film premiered earlier this year at Telluride, where notices were on the more positive side of mixed, praising Dinklage’s leading performance while acknowledging the awkward friction of grafting show tunes onto Rostand’s narrative. Indiewire’s review paid special attention to the unique circumstances of the film’s production, shot in the thick of the pandemic on a closed set in Sicily.
For Wright, this represents a return to his wheelhouse, much closer to the gussied-up theatrics of his Anna Karenina than the underdone psychothriller suspense of his more recent The Woman in the Window. With this particular talent, more is always more, and it looks like his Cyrano will do it all – sing, dance, and pine.
Cyrano comes to cinemas in the US on 25 December, and then the UK on 14 January.
Published 6 Oct 2021
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