Cyrano, the musical starring Peter Dinklage as the man himself and Haley Bennett as his beloved Roxane, was written by Peter’s wife and directed by Haley’s husband. Creative teams should know their actors, but in the biblical sense? —that’s dedication. Cyrano de Bergerac is a tale of loneliness and one-sided love, but the team’s affections give it reverse Fleetwood Mac energy: you can feel the endearment pouring through the music. A little marital trouble might’ve produced a more accurate adaptation, but then we’d have less bursting into song, so I’ll allow the cast and crew some bliss.

A Cyrano musical makes sense for director Joe Wright, whose swings are nothing if not big. Many of those swings have been misses as of late—his previous three movies were, by my estimation, explosively bad. One was even nominated for Best Picture by an institution that doesn’t think Best Film Editing is an important enough award to broadcast. But the Cyrano musical, penned for the stage by Erica Schmidt, is a more rounded-out concept than, say, Wright’s Peter Pan adaptation, wherein Rooney Mara plays a Native American woman and Blackbeard’s crew sings Nirvana sea shanties. Cyrano de Bergerac, with its lovelorn wit and now-classic story, is befitting of the musical treatment. Wright’s big swing has direction this time.

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Amid the glut of modern movie musicals, Cyrano stands out as remarkably confident. It is, at every moment, fully a drama and fully a musical, melding the mediums with rare panache. It’s always ready to sweep into song: diegetic melodies emerge well before numbers begin, guards spar with a rhythm that naturally transitions to dance, the score weaves in and out of lyricism with agile beauty. And unlike many of its contemporaries, Cyrano fades out of song just as smoothly. It never feels like it needs a scene change to return to earth after a song—the showstoppers don’t stop the flow of the show. It’s quite a tonally poised work.

Its tone is unique as well, pairing downbeat music from The National with full-hearted performances and Wright’s dreamy aesthetics. It’s bittersweet incarnate, with both the bitter and the sweet at full volume. The National’s somber, baritone refrains, for which Dinklage’s voice is an uncanny match, descend incrementally into the depths of feeling, grounding Wright’s shamelessly wistful imagery—pages of poetry floating through the air, lovers’ eyes meeting through reflections—with melancholy weight. Dinklage achieves this synthesis in his performance as well. His face is practically made for it: those expressive, puppy-dog eyes betraying those gruff, weathered features. He’s a perfect foil for the sublime Roxane, whom Wright dresses, lights, and shoots like she sure is his wife.

On a thematic level, the bitter and sweet of Cyrano are equally one-note. The emotional spectrum of the play has been sanded down to its bare necessities: love and loss. There are mentions of pride, jealousy, integrity, and virtue, but they come through in the actor’s interpretations more than they do in the abridged script. Only “Wherever I Fall,” a haunting wartime number and the film’s standout sequence, dredges up some much-needed emotional variance (and a cameo from Glen Hansard, which may move fans of Once to tears in one fell swoop). That’s not to say love and loss aren’t compellingly handled, though—Cyrano’s take on the lovers’ balcony scene is one of the most tender and sincere depictions of romance in recent memory.

Cyrano may not have the grandeur of more popular movie musicals, but its scale makes its intimacy all the more touching. I’d love to see Wright continue to work in this register.

★★★½   (3.5/5)