CYRANO, MY LOVE – movie review

Roadside Attractions
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director:Alexis Michalik
Screenwriter: Alexis Michalik
Cast: Thomas Solivérès, Olivier Gourmet, Mithilde Seigner, Tom Leeb, Lucie Boujenah, Alice De Lencquesaing
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/24/19
Opens: October 18, 2019

Cyrano, My Love poster

We go to movies to see stories of lovers and criminals, cops and robbers, Batman and Robin, but who would think that a story about a writer could be both funny and sad, bubbly and mournful, especially about a playwright whose magnum opus is known by everyone but whose name slips our mind? With “Cyrano, My Love,” director Alexis Michalik, a handsome young fellow with a long résumé as an actor, slips into the director’s chair with a first feature that mimics the trajectory of Edmond Rostand. With this wonderful, effervescent movie, Michalik hits pay dirt much like Rostand, a Parisian who, in 1897, had not written for two years only to rise above his station. Filled with both boisterous moments and expression of deep loneliness, “Cyrano, My Love” finds Rostand at age twenty-nine in Paris, desperate for money to pay the rent and to support his wife and two kids.

Rostand, given stunning new life by newcomer Thomas Solivérès, shares the glory in this film with Olivier Gourmet in the role of noted French actor Constant Coquelin, who is about to take on the costume, the poetic wit, and most of all the nose of Cyrano. Herein is a fanciful re-creation of Rostand’s struggle to make a name for himself after the turkey he had written for Sarah Bernhardt (Clementine Celarie). Since necessity is the mother of invention, Rostand’s recovers his ambition and his hopes, investing everything in a new play that seems unlikely to draw much of an audience given his previous flop. Enlightenment comes from the local restaurateur Honoré, a black man, who suggests the plot lines for Cyrano, holding that like Honoré, Cyrano has been treated like an insignificant soul.

Since a cardinal rule is to write what you know, Rostand bears witness to the plight of his friend Léonidas Léo Volny (Tom Leeb). Volny is in love with a theater costume designer Jeanne (Lucie Boujenah) and, given his good looks should be able to connect with the pretty young woman. But looks aren’t everything (or so some people think). Volny is unable to speak what he feels, and what a woman wants in Paris at least during the fin de siècle is a lover who can sweep her off her feet with words, verses preferred over mere prose. By contrast, Rostand is flawed with his ordinary appearance, his only hope lying in his words. While Volny pretends to speak passionately with Jeanne, who stands on a balcony, Rostand hides beneath delivering Volny’s words of love, making Jeanne fall in love with the poetry.

This being Paris, love and sexuality are more open than they had been for, say, the U.S. during the 1950s, which makes one wonder why the City of Lights needs brothels at all. Director Michalik, who by the way takes on the role of George Feydeau known and celebrated for his one-act farces, chooses to shoot a scene in a brothel which he could have left on the cutting-room floor, perhaps spending more time fleshing out some of the minor characters like Feydeau and some of the women including Mathilde Seigner as Maria Legault, who in the re-enactment of the play falls twice through a trap door, and Rostand’s wife Rosemonde (Alice de Lencquesaing), who fears that the passion in her marriage is gone.

This is an expensive production given the hundreds of well-dressed extras that fill all of the theater’s 1050 seats and the rentals of expensive costumes probably from the Barrandov Studios in the Czech Republic where much of the movie was filmed. “Cyrano, My Love” is a fast-moving comedy-drama that builds excitement from the scores of mishaps that threaten to close the play even before opening night, including a police action that would ban the presence of the title character and the disappearance on opening night of a major player. However the show must go on. See this obvious crowd-pleaser for scenes that are partly highbrow but with a strong emphasis on the down-to-earth hilarity that can be appreciated by theater snobs and groundlings alike.

110 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – A-