Monday With Mildred: “Cyrano”

Cyrano movie poster with Peter Dinklage.


Banking on Peter Dinklage’s fame following his star turn in Game of Thrones would seem like a good idea, especially paring him with a classic tale of love and heartbreak. (Why, oh why do we need heartbreak with love? Can’t it just be, oh I don’t know, nice?) He got good reviews across the board, but the movie didn’t do very well otherwise. My viewing partner was shocked to discover I think Dinklage is a very handsome man. Maybe that opinion is the norm and people couldn’t abide the idea of a person of short stature being a romantic lead in a film. That’s a sad idea, especially considering what an incredible actor he is.

Opening with an image of a Harlequin puppet with a plague mask is clever, but I had to wonder if the makers knew what kind of mask that is or if they saw one once and thought it’d be a fun nod to the origin story of Cyrano having a huge schnoz, or if they had no ideas clever or not and just stuck some doll in the scene. We can all hope it’s not the last option. The Harlequin resides in the residence of one Roxane (Haley Keeling, The Equalizer), with the gorgeous strawberry red hair and one-moment-away-from-wardrobe-malfunction bosom. Local privileged guy De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn) has been wooing her with the age old method of showing how rich and nasty he is at every opportunity, but one night at the opera she sees a gorgeous young man who has been downgraded in the movie from a Baron to a recruit for the local guard. They are immediately smitten. Moments later the play begins and Cyrano’s sardonic, sharp edged poetic voice interrupts to warn the lead singer to run for his life because he just cannot allow the awful singer to continue. It’s a tight, well done introduction to all the players, and I think the best part of the film. Dinklage can swashbuckle with the best of them and cut with his words at the same time. Young recruit Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr., 12 Years a Slave) is befriended by Cyrano, and tells his new friend Roxane is the most beautiful woman in the world and the love of his life. Too bad Cyrano has been in love with her for years himself. Not that he’s ever told her because she could never love someone who looks like him. Cyrano writes beautiful letters for Roxane in Christian’s name and she falls even more in love with Christian, who gets more tongue tied around gorgeous women than I do.

Okay, let’s just hold it right there. This is the reason I’ve never liked the Cyrano story. I don’t like the message that women are only really concerned about a handsome face over what kind of person he is, and also that we are easily deceived by pretty words, and also that it doesn’t matter what the woman wants as long as a man can deceive her into loving him. Haley, who plays Roxane, seems like a nice enough person and is pretty, but my next biggest peeve with the film is that Christian is very much prettier than she is. It’s hard to suspend your disbelief that so many men are so head over heels for her. Possibly the worst part of the movie is that it’s a musical.

The makers of the film included every musical trope since the beginning of time, even having two people literally singing a conversation at each other at one point. You’ve heard the music many times before and the book is fairly simpleminded. Unfortunately, Peter Dinklage is not a singer. Every time he began to moan his way through a song like Aragon singing Elendil’s Oath, I cringed a little. The musical aspect did give Roxane a chance to have sex with a piece of paper in her bed. I dare you to see that scene any other way. At least she didn’t have sex with the seaside jetty that looks just like a penis from a bird’s eye view. Only one song, at the end of the film was not only well done but gave me a lot of feels.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy Cyrano much, except for watching one of my favorite actors portray a brilliant, compassionate, kick ass hero. Everything else was standard or just meh. But my preconceived opinions of the basic story could have a lot to do with my dislike. It’s not a bad movie I just didn’t like it because it’s the Cyrano story, and it’s a subpar musical. So watch it if you like Dinklage or the story, or a movie set in a period of time you might like, or if you actually like subpar musicals. Just don’t ask me to join you.


CFR: In Addition:

OMG this is gonna be fun to write.

First: I don’t think Mildred knows that I own the original cast recording of the musical Cyrano that existed in the 1970s. Yes, I still have that vinyl. 🙂 I was surprised to read that the music in the movie is not the same. Maybe it is, but it doesn’t look like it. Huh. I wonder why.

Second: Mildred is not alone. Peter Dinklage is a very handsome sexy man. Plus his hair is beautiful. He is also crazy talented and deserves all the adoration. When I saw the ad for this movie I thought “Perfect!” Having Peter Dinklage as Cyrano removes the big nose and adds a new level of physical difference. Perfect. Perfect casting.

Third: It seems this musical version is the same as the Off-Broadway production – Musical Cyrano. Don’t know why they made it a musical other than well, selling it. Maybe. I still say Dinklage is genius casting even if he can’t sing.

Album cover of the Broadway musical Cyrano, from the 1970s.

Fourth: Oh good grief. This is a romance that has so many pitfalls of the romance genre. Everyone needs therapy. Ok, Cyrano seriously needs therapy. Tell Roxanne you love her. Yes she may reject you, however then you know and can move on. Or, and here’s the scary part, she might say yes. Oh and Christian, same for you. In short, not sharing the truth with Roxanne means the men in the story are treating her like a child. Well she’s not. Granted, in her culture and time, women didn’t have a lot of opportunities to development their minds, however, she is being treated like a child and that is the kicker for me. I can’t fully feel the tragedy because Roxanne never got to know. Until it was too late. Therapy, Cyrano. Get therapy.

Finally, get to know Peter Dinklage through the Peter Dinklage ’91 Addresses Bennington College’s Class of 2012 video below. Enjoy. He is quite the good man and actor.

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