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Close-Up with Camenker  Volume XIX, MOVIE REVIEW: CYRANO (plus Oscar updates!)

This Week for “Close-Up with Camenker,” Zach Reviews…CYRANO (plus Oscar updates!)

(March 10, 2022)

Click here for the blurb and showtimes for Cyrano

I often wonder why certain stories continue getting told time and time again. I realize this is a loaded question with no easy (or necessary) answer, but it still strikes me as a provocative and intriguing question. The new film CYRANO, another adaptation of the late 19th century play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, definitely lends itself well to this question.

A fictionalized telling of a real life man’s story, the plot focuses on a nobleman in the French Army who tries to woo the beautiful lady Roxane through the written word. Set in the mid 17th century, the story truly captures “another time, another place” in every sense of the phrase. Adapted for the screen several times previously, most famously in 1950 with an Oscar-winning performance by José Ferrer and in 1990 with an Oscar-nominated performance by Gérard Depardieu, the story gets another attempt this year with Peter Dinklage in the title role. Instead of the character having his signature large nose as he does in previous tellings, here it is his size that is the focus of what he deems his “ugliness.”

This change is a clever one, particularly in light of Dinklage’s casting. While his size is a part of the narrative, it is not so central to the telling of the story that it distracts from the character development. Having seen the previous two versions that I mentioned, I can definitely say that Cyrano’s looks are a bigger part of the character as played by Ferrer and Depardieu.

Dinklage shines here in another striking performance, something that the actor has truly mastered in the last decade. He is both brash and daring, courteous and enlightened. The balance that he strikes is admirable and his delivery is, as usual, perfect. Dinklage truly just has one of those voices that captures your attention and is immediately recognizable. Sadly, the role has not landed him an Oscar nomination as it did his peers Ferrer and Depardieu, though he should be nominated in my opinion. His portrayal is distinctly different than his predecessors and while it does not have the bravado of Ferrer or the suavity of Depardieu, he gives his own unique interpretation of Cyrano, which helps him stand out in his own way. This is a refreshing thing to see in an age where some retellings of stories remain carbon copies of their original, which is not particularly healthy.

In addition to the newly depicted version of Cyrano, the film also is a musical. As a huge fan of the musical genre, I appreciate the unique approach that director Joe Wright takes with this aspect of the movie. While it has some “traditional” song and dance numbers, there is not a particularly heavy emphasis on the music throughout. Instead, the focus is almost more on the poetic vibes that the story gives off, painting a really cool depiction through a more modern approach to the songs, which do justice in honoring the words of Rostand. 

While the film’s performances, including Haley Bennett’s portrayal of Roxane and Kelvin Harrison, Jr.’s portrayal of Christian, are really strong and the inventiveness of the adaptation is a hit, the middle lags at times. It does not feel long so to speak, but instead as if there is something lacking in substance. It’s hard to pinpoint, particularly in such a lush production with great costuming and sets that are evocative of the era. And while it doesn’t totally distract, it takes some time to shift your attention back as the end, which translates beautifully in this adaptation, approaches.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie for a variety of reasons, though I would not call it a “standout” this Oscar season. It sure is worthy of its costuming nomination and was not given the attention it deserves for Dinklage or some of its other visual achievements (makeup and set design especially come to mind).

Speaking of the state of the Oscars, they are fast approaching! I have seen almost everything and have paid some attention to the awards circuit, too. It’s proving to be predictable in some areas, as usual, and less so in others, which has come to be more of a pattern in the last few years (and one that I enjoy). 

Fan favorites like Will Smith (Best Actor for KING RICHARD) and Ariana DeBose (Best Supporting Actress for WEST SIDE STORY) seem to be the biggest “locks” in advance of March 27.

The heartwarming film CODA recently surprised with two wins at the Screen Actors Guild Awards (Best Ensemble and Best Supporting Actor for Troy Kotsur) while Jessica Chastain’s win in Lead Actress for THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE made her a more serious contender for her first Academy Award.

As much as these wins would be welcome at the Oscars for a lot of reasons (though I feel BELFAST is more worthy than CODA of Best SAG Ensemble/Best Picture at the Oscars), I am not sure they will happen. THE POWER OF THE DOG seems to have the most momentum and may propel Netflix to its first win for Best Picture after a few years of contentiousness. That film was well made, but quite boring in my eyes; I just think it has what it takes in the eyes of Academy members.

More on my Oscar thoughts next time around as I’ll cast my ballot with final predictions, as well as review some other titles at Red River. Right now, I expect a big night for DUNE and THE POWER OF THE DOG, which are ironically my least favorites of the 10 Best Picture winners. But more on that later. Happy film viewing!

Stay tuned for Volume XXX of “Close-Up with Camenker,” which will return on Wednesday, March 23, including final thoughts on the Oscars!

Click here to learn more about Zach!

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