If you’re like me, you were forced to study William Shakespeare in high school, and one of the stories you had to read included Romeo and Juliet. I didn’t enjoy studying it then, and looking back on it now, I realize why: The disturbing story is about two teenagers falling in love after meeting each other exactly once, then impulsively deciding that they would rather die than have to live without the other. Sounds really messed up, doesn’t it? Talk about a total teen drama! You’d think that today’s stories would be more politically correct, but nope! The fact that the story of Cyrano exists and is still being readapted over time proves that people nowadays still like to swoon audiences with unrealistic love stories that will only be met with disappointment if one dares to imitate it.
The plot revolves around Cyrano, whose sole purpose is to be with this girl named Roxanne, yet she tells him she wants him to make sure another boy named Christian writes love letters to her. Aside from leaving him devastated, he also believes he’s not worthy of her for no reason other than because he’s short. That I find hard to believe, after all, she’s not the one calling him a freak, unlike others who get in his way, so this fear of his isn’t well justified, it instead just makes him look like a coward. Because of this, there’s never a sense of friendship between Cyrano and Christian once they meet each other, seeing how Cyrano only sees Christian as a rival and nothing more. It’s also unclear what Roxanne sees in Christian, or Cyrano in that regard. The rest of the movie spends time making the title character look like a wayward sheep left out of the flock for not being spotless, constantly questioning whether God the Shepherd will notice him before the wolves devour him. But the real question you’ll be asking instead is: “Why should I care?”
Cyrano’s journey is a total fairy tale romance that encourages unrealistic expectations, yet it can’t even feel like the Disney musical it intends to imitate, since the music is not properly timed to match the singing. There are awkward transitions whenever the actors are about to break out into song, and nobody in the cast is a decent singer. Peter Dinklage (who plays Cyrano) is, in particular, the worst singer you’ll ever hear, which isn’t made any less grating to the ears by the way he overacts to try and appear all Shakespearean. There’s a point as well when Peter Dinklage sounds like he’s rapping as a segue into a song; I don’t know if it was actually him trying to get around singing badly, but either way, it sounds so awkward, given that at no other point does a character rap.
The dancing sequences also are simply weird since nobody in the cast can dance well, especially while wearing those ridiculous costumes not designed for dancing. Don’t get me wrong, the efforts of both costume designer Massimo Cantini Parrini and two-time Academy Award winner Jacqueline Durran (1917, Little Women) do an acceptable job in creating the period setting, given that the former has already received an Academy Award nomination for his work in this movie, and was nominated the year before for Pinocchio. That said, it gets quite distracting when you keep hearing the rustles in the costumes as they move around, so the nomination isn’t entirely well-deserved. The same goes for a big swordfight that is so heavily choreographed it reaches a point where it’s not realistic, hardly enough to excite the teens watching. But don’t get me wrong: Peter’s a surprisingly great stuntman, and it’s clear he’s doing all his own stunts. Though I don’t say that because he’s a little person and thus no other little person could be a stunt double, but because his face is clearly seen in those stunts.
Now, Joe Wright is a director famous for making shamelessly obvious Oscar-bait movies, such as Atonement and Darkest Hour, and this time around, he manages to pull an occasionally good punch, including the humor of seeing two men struggling to keep up an enormous lie when obstacle after obstacle is thrown at them. Except that doesn’t mean a whole lot considering that Wright doesn’t even know how to depict the historical setting accurately. At one point, someone mentions vertigo, which wasn’t even discovered yet in this time depicted, and one fight is staged to look more like a locker room fight than something you’d see in the 17th century. There really is no care in staging the cast, whether there’s music playing or not, as the actors are often hidden in shadows when they’re supposed to be the center of focus. To make the carelessness of the worldbuilding even more obvious, some people in the background seem to be wearing facemasks as if Joe Wright forgot to tell the actors to take theirs off once the camera started rolling.
So along with it feeling both dated and too much a product of our times, this love story is nothing more than another one of those fantasies where the hero does terrible things to get the girl and gets pretty much exactly what he wants in the end without learning a thing. And the girl here, I should add, is a gullible one-dimensional love interest who never complains and has no ambition other than loving a strong man. And also, the corsets she wears every second of her screentime are designed to press up as much cleavage as possible without getting too distasteful; I get that it was just the fashion of the time, but she even wears a corset while supposedly in a nightgown! This rubbish really says nothing new about romance compared to what William Shakespeare wrote about, even including the toxic message that people who can’t be with their special someone are better off dead.
So if you were to put up two movies for me to watch, one being Fifty Shades of Grey, and one being Cyrano, all I would be able to tell you is, “What’s the difference?”
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!