Some movies are “based on a true story,” meaning that they mix some of the facts of what happened with fiction to create drama. Other movies say they are “inspired by a true story,” meaning that they use a kernel of truth to create a largely original story.
French writer-director Alexis Michalik’s “Cyrano, My Love” should bear the phrase, “vaguely aware of a true story, but didn’t really check into it much.”
“Cyrano, My Love” has its Madison premiere at Market Square Theatre, continuing the second-run theater’s trend of premiering first-run independent films.
In the film, Edmond (Thomas Soliveres) is an unsuccessful young playwright, and we can tell he’s unsuccessful because, in one of the film’s many clichés about writers, his desk is covered in crumpled-up pieces of paper. Acclaimed actor Constant Colequin (Olivier Gourmet) summons Rostand with a challenge — he needs a hit play in three weeks to keep creditors off his back.
In another big movie cliché about writers, Edmond finds his inspiration in the real world. For example, when his friend Leo (Tom Beebs) tries to woo a young woman (Lucie Boujenah) on a balcony, Edmond hides in the shadows and provides the poetic words for Leo. Then Edmond gets a faraway look in his eyes and boom, it’s in the play. Hey, Edmond, have you tried something called “imagination”?
Of course, watching a writer scribbling at a desk is not particularly entertaining, and there’s something almost endearing about how loose “Cyrano, My Love” plays with the facts. Edmond is frantically writing “Cyrano” all through rehearsals for the play, and dealing with a host of overlapping problems, from a lead actor with stage fright to producers/brothel owners who insist their top courtesan plays Roxane.
It’s silly and weightless, but full of good cheer. Michalik keeps the camera swirling around the actors, and shoots the opening night production not from the audience, but from backstage. We feel solidarity with this ragtag group as they try to pull off the show, unaware that it will become one of the most famous plays in modern history.
I would have preferred a backstage “Cyrano” with some connection to the historical record, but there’s no denying that “Cyrano, My Love” is an easy and enjoyable watch.