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Lisa Barr on the Tragic Passion of ‘Cyrano’

Lisa Barr Cyrano
Barr: Courtesy Image

For Variety‘s Writers on Writers, Lisa Barr pens a tribute to “Cyrano” (screenplay by Erica Schmidt; based on the play by Edmond Rostand).

How far would you go for your passion? Would you kill for it, steal for it, lie for it or protect it at all costs — even if the price tag is yourself? Cue Cyrano de Bergerac. A tragic hero — this version of Cyrano is fully packaged with (almost) all the goods: loyalty, bravery, intellect, compassion and honor brilliantly portrayed by the incomparable Peter Dinklage.

Directed by Joe Wright and screenplay by Erica Schmidt, “Cyrano” is a musical romantic drama, a period piece featuring a fearless warrior who never loses, a brainiac poet whose words dance off his nimble tongue. And yet … Cyrano’s fatal flaw and ultimately his downfall is his appearance. Our swashbuckling hero is, in his own words, a “midget,” considered a freak among men, a human joke who inspires ridicule.

Cyrano constantly deflects his adversaries. He is the perfect guard both personally and professionally, slaying his enemies left and right, but impotent when it comes to piercing his deepest pain, the relentless voice in his head: I am not worthy. It is the crux of his loneliness and leads him to believe that no matter how many swords he overtakes, he is undeserving of Roxanne, his true love, a goddess (played by Haley Bennett.)

In the dark web of Cyrano’s mind, the beautiful Roxanne could not possibly love him back. And it gets worse. Roxanne unwittingly friend zones the smitten Cyrano, asking him to help her lock down her one true love interest. What does our jilted hero do? He catfishes his beloved, utilizing the façade of the more physically suitable Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a dashing, brave soldier but not the most articulate.

Cyrano hands over his greatest gift on a silver platter to Christian: his soulful voice, his passionate prose, to seduce the romance-thirsty Roxanne. From there, the twists, turns and entanglements mount. The rich cast of characters break out into dramatic song to convey their wide range of emotion — and it works. And yet, “unrequited love” still manages to rule the kingdom and ultimately defeats our insecure hero who, alas, epiphanies much too late. In his final moment of clarity, Cyrano understands the very same thing I tell my three daughters on repeat: Love yourself first, embrace your flaws and you are enough.

Barr is the award-winning author of “Woman on Fire,” “The Unbreakables” and “Fugitive Colors.”