While Cyrano, My Love will never rival Noises Off or Topsy-Turvy in terms of sublimity in backstage drama, there is something scrappy and likable about the film.
Though the name Edmond Rostand does not enjoy the ubiquity of William Shakespeare, his key creation has survived and remains much-loved by readers to this very day. Cyrano de Bergerac, Rostand’s large-nosed, 19th century creation has often appeared on-stage and on film, including Steve Martin’s 1987 comedic take on the play, Roxanne. While Rostand is not as celebrated as his creation, Alexis Michalik’s film, Cyrano, My Love, seeks to remedy that by giving the playwright his very own Shakespeare in Love.
Rostand (played by Thomas Solivérès) is nothing like his most famous character. While Cyrano is brash, courageous and unattractive, the mousy playwright instead kowtows to more powerful men while constantly carping about his diminishing future in the theater. See, old Rostand insists on writing in verse, something that was out of fashion in the late 1890s. But his words become Cyrano’s and despite his oversized proboscis, Rostand’s creation wields them in ways that woos the ladies.
Written and directed by Michalik and based on his play, Cyrano, My Love claims to be the origin story of Rostand’s script. However, there are too many coincidental moments and leaps of happenstance where the play and real-life blend that make Michalik’s script hard to swallow as truth. It’s in these most cloying moments that the movie fails. However, Michalik and his cast inject things with just the right level of charm, saving Cyrano, My Love from becoming a hackneyed bore.
When we first meet Rostand he is down on his luck. His newest play has flopped and it seems getting another job will be impossible. He suffers from writing block and doubt, despite the encouragement of his doting wife. Rostand then happens upon popular actor Constant Coquelin (Olivier Gourmet in a fine performance) and is commissioned to write a play. The problem? He only has a few days to create something masterful.
From here, Cyrano, My Love morphs into a backstage comedy as Michalik traces all the things that must fall into place for Rostand to create his most famous play. Shady investors, angry actors, a badly miscast leading lady and diminishing time make life difficult for the playwright. Rostand’s story also echoes Cyrano’s: while helping his more attractive, but romantically stunted, leading man woo a woman by acting as ghost writer of love letters, the playwright himself developing feelings for his friend’s paramour. If that sounds familiar, you can understand just how Cyrano, My Love takes liberties with history.
While Cyrano, My Love will never rival Noises Off or Topsy-Turvy in terms of sublimity in backstage drama, there is something scrappy and likable about the film. While we all know that Cyrano de Bergerac becomes a hit play that lives on through history, it doesn’t diminish the suspense that appears when everything goes wrong. Cyrano, My Love does everything right when its characters are in the theater. The chance encounters with Chekov and the love story shenanigans off the stage get in the way of greatness, but sometimes a confectionery ode to the stage is plenty enough.