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Friday, November 8, 2019

Cyrano, My Love

“Cyrano, My Love,” an adaptation of writer/director Alexis Michalik’s stage play, “Edmond,” gives viewers a fictionalized look at the creation of a hit – Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac.” Perhaps not so well known now, though Cyrano’s large bulbous nose might strike a few bells, “Cyrano de Bergerac” is considered by many to be the greatest success story of French theater.

Rostand (Thomas Solivérès) is an out-of-work playwright, his only produced play is shown to be a massive flop in the film’s opening scenes. Loaded down with debt and various other responsibilities that come with adulthood, Rostand’s future isn’t looking too bright. When opportunity finally comes knocking, Rostand jumps at the chance – the only problem is that the promised play hasn’t been written yet and the premiere date is only a few weeks away.

Michalik’s choice of Solivérès as the lead was one factor that kept taking me out of the movie. Rostand is nearly thirty when this film takes place; while Solivérès is nearly thirty himself, he looks closer to twenty. As if to mask his youthful demeanor, the makeup department throws a goofy looking mustache on Solivérès. It’s not convincing. Solivérès gives the role his best, but he looks too young for the part.

It doesn’t help that Michalik takes a generic approach to the material. “Cyrano, My Love” hits all the familiar beats for this type of story. In other words, expect the expected. Rostand is confronted by pushy backers, prideful (and equally pushy) actors, and a series of sudden strokes of genius and a handful of setbacks, all of which are conveniently timed. There’s no sense of urgency to the movie because you know everything is going to work out fine.

Despite these problematic elements, Michalik’s movie manages to work. It’s engaging and frequently humorous. Viewers might know exactly where this story is going but this movie is far from dull. The supporting cast is made up of oddballs - from famed actor Constant Coquelin (Olivier Gourmet), whose search for a new project leads to the play’s creation, to the show’s brothel owning backers, Simon Abkarian and Marc Andréoni. These supporting roles help to give the film an energetic flourish that keeps it from feeling stale.

Michalik finds a good rhythm for his movie. The film has a brisk pace that flows smoothly along from beginning to end. There are no moments where the movie feels “slow.” Scenes aren’t unnecessarily stretched out and there are no awkwardly included subplots. The subplots that are included work into the writing of the play – most notably one that involves Rostand writing letters to woo his friend Volny’s (Tom Leeb) love interest Jeanne (Lucie Boujenah), who has become his muse. Although it’s a generic work overall, Michalik handles the material fairly well. It’s nicely shot and the production design is well done. “Cyrano, My Love” is by no means a great movie, but it is an entertaining one.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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