Movie Review Triple Header: The Many Cyranos

Movie Review Triple Header: The Many Cyranos

Hubs and I love a double-feature. Early in our relationship, we went to see 300: Rise of an Empire followed immediately by Peabody and Mr. Sherman, which is the movie nerd equivalent of riding every roller coaster in an amusement park. We've also made more discerning choices, like Walk the Line followed by Walk Hard, which is the perfect way to fully appreciate John C. Reilly's sink-smashing skills. Last year we watched The Heartbreak Kid, a 1972 Elaine May comedy that features one of Charles Grodin's best performances, followed by The Heartbreak Kid, a 2007 Ben Stiller remake directed by the Farrelly brothers that is on the shortlist of Worst Movies I've Ever Seen. So we love a double-feature, and this weekend we upped our game. We had a triple feature of three very different movies, made in very different eras, but all built around the premise of the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac: Roxanne, Whatever it Takes, and Cyrano.

Roxanne (1987): C.D. (Steve Martin) is the fire chief in a small town who is adored by his townsfolk but can't find love because he's got an enormous nose. One night, a naked woman named Roxanne (Daryl Hannah) appears at the fire station. She's new in town and she's locked herself out of her rental house. C.D. climbs up the side of her house (not for the last time) and lets her in. The flirtatious banter they've been enjoying dies the moment she gets a look at his nose. They become friends, and she confides that she has a crush on one of his firemen, Chris (Rick Rossovich). Crushed by the rejection but determined to hide it, C.D. offers to help bring the attractive couple together. But when Roxanne's beloved turns out to be a dull-witted oaf, C.D. steps in and woos her with his own words. I saw this movie when I was a kid, and it basically formed my entire understanding of Cyrano de Bergerac. Steve Martin is at the top of his game, and the sequence where he entertains a bar full of people by coming up with 20 insults about his own nose would kill in any comedy club today. There are a lot of good laughs in this movie, provided cameos from Kevin Nealon, Fred Willard, and a baby Damon Wayans. It's also filmed in a beautiful little town in British Columbia that looks like all your Pacific Northwest fantasies come to life. It's all green mountains and misty skies and unbelievably cute Queen Anne houses that I'm sure cost a bajillion dollars today. I appreciated that Roxanne was a vibrant, intelligent woman with friends and a career who wasn't afraid to go after a guy she's hot for, but it took her longer than it should have to figure out what was going on. Or maybe women in the 80's weren't as leery of being catfished as we are now. It all wraps up a little too quickly, and there's not enough groveling or explaining before the kissing portion of the program, but overall I enjoyed revisiting this movie and I think it holds up. It's streaming on Hulu, so you should definitely put it on your watchlist.

Whatever it Takes (2000): Ryan (Shane West) and Maggie (Marla Sokoloff) are best friends in their senior year of high school. Ryan is obsessed with Ashley (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe), the hottest girl in school, but she doesn't even know he exists. Ashley's cousin Chris (James Franco) agrees to help Ryan woo Ashley (more on that later), and he wants Ryan to help him woo Maggie in return. Let me tell you, the whole "one guy using the words of another guy to get into a girl to like him" thing is already creepy, and it's way, way grosser when the guy in question is her best friend. Though this movie has a lot of the standard Cyrano bits, it totally ignores the whole Cyrano-has-a-physical-deformity element of the plot that makes his character sympathetic. Ryan is just a generically hot guy who somehow doesn't notice that his best friend is a total smokeshow until another guy is interested in her, and then he proceeds to set her up to get molested because he wants to bang a different girl despite finding her personality repellent. In other words, a classic early-2000's teen comedy: come for the high-school hijinks, stay for the deeply problematic sexual politics. Chris's foolproof advice to Ryan about how to get Ashley is a negging manifesto: insult her, because she's used to being complimented and it'll make her insecure and therefore desperate to please. This is five years before The Game popularized the idea of pickup artists, so Chris is ahead of his time in the worst way. That said, I had a great time watching this movie. The fashions alone are worth the ride: Chokers! Platform Sandals! Mysterious scraps of fabric as shirts! Aaron Paul and Colin Hanks have small roles, but Richard Schiff really steals the show as a checked-out gym teacher. The prom sequence is among the most ridiculous ever committed to film, and I loved it. I didn't know this movie existed, and my husband only found it after much furious googling. Apparently he saw it in high school. I can only be grateful it didn't scar him for life. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this, but it's on Vudu free with ads if making fun of movies is your idea of a good time.

Cyrano (2022): Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) is a soldier in the city guard, and woe betide any man who thinks his small stature makes him less of a warrior. Still, he's painfully aware of his limitations. He's in love with Roxanne (Haley Bennett), a romantic young woman who yearns for love though she must marry for money. Cyrano has neither money nor looks; he only has the poetry that Roxanne loves above all else. The idea that a man wouldn't be able to find love because of his large nose is fairly absurd, but the barriers between this version of Cyrano and his Roxanne are very real. In this era, a man of Dinklage's size wouldn't be allowed to woo a beautiful woman no matter his wealth or power. So right there, this movie is already the most serious and heartfelt of the three versions, and Dinklage's tortured performance drives home the agony of being an eternal outsider. This is directed by Joe Wright, who did the Kiera Knightly Pride & Prejudice, so I expected it to be gorgeous: what I didn't expect is that it would be downright dreamlike, with the camera dancing as much as the actors. It is also a musical, which goes a long way toward absorbing you in the emotions...but I have to say I wasn't particularly impressed with the lyrics. Poetry is such a huge part of these characters, and the song lyrics seemed too plain and modern against the flowery spoken language that the characters were using. This version is much more rom-dram than rom-com, and consequently the ending doesn't wrap up as neatly as I would have liked. Or, at all how I would have liked, actually. So while I thought it was incredible to look at and the main performances were both strong, I didn't love this as much as I wanted to. It's worth seeing, and being in a theater made the visuals even more immersive. But should you rush out and see it? Meh.

What’s your favorite double or triple feature? Let me know if there’s something I have to watch at