Hollywood loves to challenge viewers and ask questions, but possibly the most prolific question that comes to mind with the retelling of the classic play in the new movie Cyrano is – why does Hollywood still continue to attempt to make musicals?
And not because of the genre, per se: live musicals in every major city across the world is a booming business of telling stories through song. Most times there is more feeling, more emotion, more love, more pain; all of it can mean so much more through song. However, why does moving stories from the stage to the screen seem to mean that the singing talent goes out of the window?
Thus is the current sad case of Edmond Rostand’s classic story of Cyrano de Bergerac, the quick-witted poet who is banished to a life without the love of his life, Roxanne, merely because of some physical deformity.
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In the classic story it is a large nose; however, in this retelling, with Peter Dinklage as Cyrano, his short stature is what is holding him back from pursuing his Roxanne. While his acting will move you and his pain is so beautifully communicated, his face so expressive whenever his love Roxanne (Haley Bennett) confesses her love for another (the less than eloquent Christian, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.), his singing falls flat. Zero vibrato, and most times he just sounds like he is basically talking with emotion.
Unfortunately, this is the case with most of the singing in this film. All songs were written by Carin Besser and Matt Berninger. The husband/wife creative team who masterfully express Cyrano’s plight through song, have created a wonderful score, with meaningful lyrics, and phrases used throughout the whole picture that tie everything together.
Sadly, neither Dinklage, nor his beautiful co-star Bennett, deliver in this picture. Although she does show promise with the rage-filled, frustrated song of ‘I Need More’ there is no build up, no belting, and very little vibrato, and those viewers that come to see a musical will certainly be disappointed. By the time Harrison appears and shows some promise as a singer, he does not have much more than ‘Someone to Say (Reprise)’ and a trio with Dinklage and Bennett named ‘Every Letter’ to wow the audience.
The most compelling song in the whole movie is sung by three random soldiers, writing letters home, about to face a doomed battle and knowing they will not be returning. ‘Wherever I Fall’, sung and acted by Glen Hansard, Sam Amidon, and Scott Folan, perhaps hits a little too close to home with the current situation in Ukraine, where hundreds and maybe thousands may be about to die because of circumstances beyond their control. Most would like to be home, living in peace with their loved ones. Even the Colonel played by Ben Mendelsohn, is reluctant to fight, but states he serves his king, and soldiers on knowing that he is leading all his men to their deaths.
Rostand’s words have never been spoken more eloquently, and one would think he would be proud of this version of his tale. The costumes are definitely expressive of the period and transport the viewer to another time, where men wore wigs, high heels, and more make-up than women did. The choreography, especially in the large overhead shot number, while the soldiers are practicing their sword skills with duelling, also lends the percussion for the song. Very cleverly done, and very engaging, if you can overlook the lack of singing talent with every turn.
Overall, Cyrano is not a bad way to kill a Sunday afternoon, and the costumes and acting are superb. But if you are a musical lover, expecting huge belts and Broadway runs, then it might be best to skip this one.
Cyrano is out now in cinemas.