Cyrano

I confess that I am nothing but a bundle of biases and that my interest in the picture waned on finding out it was a musical; I also admit that my interest then waxed on finding out the music was written by members of Cincinnati indie band The National. I wonder what my opinion would have been had I not known that. Would I have appreciated the music as much, or listened to it less closely?

The idea to reinterpret Cyrano as a little person rather than a man of typical size but for his large nose is an inspired one, and makes an old story new again, and better still, fills it with an uncommon empathy. I don’t mean to detract from the agony of feeling unlovable for one’s belief that one’s lack of conventionally attractive features is somehow not worthy of empathy; it’s just that it is broad, and applies so widely across the world that making Cyrano a little person allows the audience’s empathy to find a sharper focus. I am not the first person writing a review of this film to draw attention to Dinklage’s recent observation on a podcast that little people still have a long way to go to be taken seriously at a corporate and cultural level, and Cyrano feels like just the kind of film to move the needle in that regard.

I would have liked to see more contrast in the color on-screen; a washed-out color palette doesn’t work well for me when it exists in a world which is itself washed out, in sandy bricks and paths, white pillars and walls, and thick powdered make-up and wiggery. That said, it’s an aesthetic choice and one that may work for other viewers. The movie seems to be doing a lot with what I imagine is a modest budget, and some of the wider shots remind one that the production team were taking this very seriously. That being said, the editing was laden with enough shot-reverse-shot to make a mean mark in my memory that I’m sure I’ll always think of when musing about the way this movie came together.

Dinklage is here acting well enough to carry the entire movie on his shoulders if it were required of him, and thankfully that is not the case, because everyone else do respectable or even great work alongside him. No one stood out to me as weak in this respect.

As I admitted with regard to my biases, I found the music, written by the geniuses behind The National, to be really, really special stuff. It has none of the bombast of a typical musical in the way The National have none of the bombast one assumes of a group which can be called “a rock band”. This music is sorrowful, aching, and lyrically honest in a way that must make other songwriters envious. Above all else, the music was what made me glad to have seen this film. I’m not much of a “play the soundtrack from a musical in my car” kind of guy…except when I am, which is apparently now, in the wake of this film.

I won’t likely seek it out to put on again, but I’ll give it a full-throated endorsement, and I’ll happily attend if anyone around me ever wants to put it on. This was such a pleasant surprise. It was not the twee, cheap movie musical my biases and I expected, but something sincere and true to the tone of the original 1896 play. Give it a watch sometime.

This is a copy of the review on my Letterboxd profile. There, I gave it an 8/10 score.

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