Review: Dinklage is high point of new musical ‘Cyrano’

Peter Dinklage and Haley Bennett in Cyrano / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Who doesn’t love a love story, particularly one as lusciously shot as director Joe Wright’s “Cyrano?”

Well, love is a strong word, one that can be thrown around entirely too easily when caught up in the moment. Maybe like is better or possibly appreciate?

Yeah, I appreciated the craftsmanship and talent that went into making “Cyrano,” which, of course, is an adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” but I did not love it.

Maybe, I loved the idea of a musical version of the classic that features tunes crafted by the alt-rock band the National more than the actual product?

The idea sounds great!

However, for whatever reason, while watching the movie my mind began to muse over how much I loved the 1987’s romantic comedy “Roxanne,” Steve Martin’s modern take on the well-worn tale that was directed by Fred Schepisi from Martin’s screen play.

Something is amiss when one film reminds you of how much you love another when you should be caught up in what you are currently watching. Instead of drawing me in, the musical numbers allowed my mind to wander.

The film’s story is a classic and truly heart-breaking with the loquacious but challenged Cyrano crafting love letters to his true love Roxanne. Too self-conscious and self-loathing to take credit for them, Cyrano has the handsome but dumb Christian — whom Roxanne fell in lust with at first sight— act as his proxy.

Peter Dinklage’s Cyrano tells Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s Christian, “I will make you eloquent, while you will make me handsome.”

This film is based off Erica Schmidt’s 2017 musical stage adaptation, which starred her husband Dinklage in the leading role along with Haley Bennett, who co-stars in the film. as Roxanne. In Rostand’s original, Cyrano is self-conscious about his large nose. In the play and this film, Dinklage’s small stature is a substitute for the original’s grotesque proboscis.

Dinklage’s performance is the reason to see this movie. Though he is only a mediocre singer, he has panache. The nuance he gives to his love-lorn hero with his expressive eyes and emotive physicality is heart-wrenching. Bennett, who has a lovely stage-trained voice, is also strong as Roxanne, who loves her friend Cyrano in a certain way, but just not in the way that he wants.

Wright’s camera work is thrilling. His staging of the famous balcony scene is enchanting but at the same time believable. His immaculately orchestrated camera moves join with the ornate production design to give the film purpose and a pulse, but somehow I believe the movie would have been more affective as standard film rather than a musical

(PG-13) 2 hr. 4 min.
Grade: C

  New in Local Theaters

The Batman (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 2 hr. 56 min. / Malco Razorback IMAX (March 1, 7 p.m. preview showing)

Cyrano (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 2 hr. 4 min. / Malco Razorback

Gangubai Kathiawadi (watch trailer) / (NR) 2 hr. 34 min. / AMC Fiesta Square

Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformania (watch trailer) / (PG) 1 hr. 27 min. / Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne

Studio 666 (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 50 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle

The Worst Person in the World (watch trailer) / (R) 2 hr. 8 min. / Malco Razorback

Classic Corner – Batman Begins

Christian Bale in Batman Begins / Warner Bros.

With director Matt Reeves’ highly anticipated “The Batman” scheduled to open wide Thursday afternoon after a special IMAX showing at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Malco Razorback here in Fayetteville, it’s probably as good a time as ever to look back on the first film in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy “Batman Begins.”

Obviously opinions vary, but “Batman Begins” from 2005 is my favorite live-action Batman movie to date. I’d rate it just a hair above its sequel from 2008 “The Dark Knight” with Tim Burton’s “Batman” from 1989 placing third on my list.

Many favor “The Dark Knight” with Heath Ledger’s posthumous Oscar-winning performance as the Joker at center stage, and while that film is quite good, it’s telling became a bit crowded with Nolan’s attempt to squeeze the origin of Harvey “Two-Face” Dent into the tale. Introducing Dent made good sense, but why not save his devolution into Two-Face for the third film?

Squeezing Two-Face into the movie cramped the film with some awkward moments both before and after its thrilling climax that detracted from the movie’s main storyline featuring the Joker.

“Batman Begins” offered a cleaner story in telling us the background on how Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) became the Batman and forged an uneasy alliance with Liam Neeson’s Ducard/Ra’s al Ghul that would come back to bite him on his Bat haunches.

It’s interesting that Neeson played the characters who mentored both Darth Vader (Qui-Gon Ginn in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”) and Batman.

Ducard/Ghul is training Wayne to be his second in leading the League of Assassins, but when Wayne balks at unnecessarily murdering a training opponent because taking a life is against his ethos, Ducard/Ghul deems him unworthy. Wayne escapes, but he unknowingly creates an enemy for life.

Upon Wayne’s return to Gotham, he begins to create the Batman through a conversation with his guardian/manservant Alfred Pennyworth (Michale Cain) and reconnects with friend/love interest Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), who now works in the Gotham district attorney’s office as well as Wayne Enterprises tech specialist Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) who once ran the company before being demoted.

With the help of Alfred and Fox, soon Wayne is bedeviling Gotham’s underworld as the Batman, which ultimately brings him back into conflict with Ghul, who has ignited a terroristic plot to wreak havoc on Gotham in order to incite civil unrest that would ultimately stoke the fires of revolution in the city.

It’s a fantastic plot for sure, but under Nolan’s measured and deft direction, it works. Bale is a credible Batman and strong as Bruce, a determined man pushed to his limits by ghosts of the past. Cain, Freeman and Gary Oldman as police Lt. James Gordon ground the movie with their charismatic yet believable performances as members of Batman’s network of confidants, who aid in his battle against crime.

Holmes, however, is unimpressive in the underwritten role of Rachel, Wayne’s would-be lover. The character gets better material in “The Dark Knight,” and in that film, Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a stirring performance as the tough-nosed and smart assistant DA.

My favorite aspect of “Batman Begins” is that we see Wayne mature from being a petulant young man on the edge of destruction to one who matures and begins to make a difference in his world, even if how he is doing it seems self-destructive. By being Batman, Wayne finds purpose and direction in his madness.

“Batman Begins” as well as Nolan’s two follow-up films can be streamed on HBO Max.