Period musicals like Cyrano
Based on the legendary tale by Cyrano de Bergerac, Cyrano attempts to introduce the classic to a new generation with a modern musical twist. Based on the musical of the same name, Cyrano sees Pierre Dinklage as the main character, a skilled duelist and master of words, held back only by his incredibly low self-esteem. The film also features Haley Bennet as the beautiful Roxanne, the nobleman whom Cyrano is madly in love with, but feels terribly unworthy of his affection, leading him to assist another suitor named Christian (played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.) to win her love.
If this story sounds familiar, that’s because it is. This classic tale, inspired by the historical figure, has itself inspired a wide variety of stories for over a century. It’s a classic underdog story, where outcasts want to be accepted by society before they realize they have to accept themselves first. This type of story is also loved by the musical genre, so it makes sense that the latest adaptation of Cyrano’s legend followed suit.
If you came out of Cyrano and found yourself humming along to a catchy tune, then maybe these seven similar movies will keep you in a musical mood.
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
The classic Gaston Leroux the novel-turned-Tony Award-winning Broadway musical became, well, far from an Oscar-winning film; The Phantom of the Opera is still a decently entertaining adaptation of one of the most popular stage shows of all time.
In a sense, The ghost of the operation could be considered the anti-Cyrano. Instead of the outcast being an unsung hero, he is a feared and hated villain. Rather than trying to win someone’s heart and affection through clever puns from a distance, the Phantom uses much more direct and sinister methods to seduce the heroine of the story, killing and maiming anyone who gets in his way. The source material itself has been the subject of many interpretations, and the operatic touch adds a brilliant new layer to classic gothic horror.
The most common complaint about the film version is undoubtedly Gerard Butlermusical ability (or lack thereof). It’s a perfectly valid complaint, but aside from his singing, Butler gives an engaging performance as a thoroughly insane, yet still oddly likable horror icon. Is it the final adaptation of a mythical show? No, but it’s still a pretty entertaining story that will still be timeless no matter how good the actual movie is.
Les Miserables (2012)
Speaking of film adaptations of legendary musicals that featured a serious casting error of an iconic role; Wretched is so close to being one of the best musicals of all time.
It’s a great story that is sadly undermined by some truly baffling creative decisions. The assembly is borderline nauseating and Russell CroweJavert’s infamous performance is still the subject of mockery nearly a decade later. While the idea of live singing holds up, the live singing voices of the main protagonists are only okay, when in reality they really had to be really amazing in an opera-inspired story like this- this.
Too bad that these big speed bumps are present because all the other elements of the film are masterfully made. On the technical side, there’s stunningly beautiful cinematography, high-end production design, and overall a generally high sense of scale. While most of the performances here are quite good, the exception in contrast to Crowe is Anne Hathaway like Fantine. It’s easily her best performance of her career, and her Oscar win for portraying the character is always well-deserved.
Rocketman is the exact movie that Bohemian Rhapsody should have been.
A biopic about the career of Mr Elton John, Rocketman uses the legendary musician’s signature music in beautiful and stylistic musical numbers. It strikes a near-perfect balance between over-the-top visuals and a grounded, engaging narrative, focusing on John putting on a happy face throughout his career despite his struggles with drug addiction, alcoholism, and even coming to terms with his own sexuality.
Rocketman also has the added bonus of being rated R. It’s a big help not just because the movie needed to be particularly vulgar or whatever, but the rating allows the director Dexter Fletcher to lend a little more thematic weight and add an extra touch of emotion and drama to John’s tumultuous life. The film is a great example of a time when the subject matter of a biopic directly involved in the project was a huge boon, as it feels like a really raw and authentic look at the life of Elton John (minus the dream sequences weightless of course).
My Fair Lady (1964)
Another popular story archetype in film is the shtick “to take a person of lower class status and amplify them to a much higher societal level”. Examples of this include Stock exchanges, A pretty womanand perhaps the most famous (at least according to Kingsman: The Secret Service), my lovely lady.
The 1964 Best Picture winner follows Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney Englishwoman who can barely read a single word of English. The glamorous and pompous Dr. Henry Higgins offers to take Doolittle under his wing and teach him the ropes, but his motives are more due to a bet with a colleague than the goodness of his heart. It’s a fine satire of classism as a whole and its biting sense of humor still holds up impeccably well to this day.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Nothing says “Disney” like a genocidal maniac who sets a town on fire just so he can pine for a woman who’s half his age, does it?
Well, oddly enough, that’s an accurate depiction of villainous Judge Claude Frollo, the villain in the anime adaptation of the Victor-Hugo novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is considered by many to be one of Disney’s darkest animated films. While not as depressing as its source material, The Hunchback of Notre Dame successfully updates the story for a younger, more modern audience while retaining the novel’s themes of wanting to belong and using religion as an excuse to do wrongdoing.
These themes take shape in one of Disney’s most stunning visual triumphs; which is certainly already a high bar. Not only are the animation/filmmaking techniques marvelous with stunning 2D animation accompanied by catchy songs and an epic musical score from veteran Disney composer Alain Menken, but the storytelling here is equally triumphant. The main characters are lovable and cuddly, while Frollo is one of the most vile, cruel, and downright gruesome antagonists ever seen in an animated film. The only real negatives are the comic relief gargoyles that are sometimes out of place, but one of them has the voice of George Costanza, so it’s hard to get too crazy about it.
Red Mill! (2001)
It’s pretty indicative of how wacky a movie is going to be when it features an exclamation point in the official title.
Although to refer simply to Red Mill! like “wacky” is about as big of an understatement as calling a Quentin Tarantino rather violent film. This movie is sheer madness from start to finish, with ridiculously over the top performances and visual and audio directing techniques that will leave its audience feeling like they’ve lost acid. With all of these elements and the infamous jukebox music format it indulges in; this should be a disaster, but oddly enough it isn’t.
It has its fair share of problems, of course, but Red Mill! includes a number of standout sequences to make it a great time, like this spectacular number from “Roxanne.” Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman also have pretty solid chemistry from start to finish and the two can flex their musical chops with song covers that actually elevate the song and (usually) feel relevant to the plot. If you’re easily bored and/or get car sick, this one might be a bit too much for you, but if you’re willing to accept the wacky tone, this is the perfect start to catch up. Baz Luhrmannfilmography before Elvis on the big screen this summer.
Although not a movie per se and more of a recording of the Broadway production, there is a very good reason why hamilton became the global sensation that he is. Lin-Manuel MirandaThe telling of the story of America’s Founding Fathers has been hailed as a bold work of art that still accurately depicts American history without the singing and rapping.
Although not a traditional feature film, hamilton still has a signature cinematic quality, likely due to its sensational performances from the entire cast. His production design and choreography are also a treat to watch and are still awe-inspiring even for those who don’t attend the live performance in person. It’s an entertaining, educational, and surprisingly honest look at American history that’s so good that a feature film adaptation probably isn’t necessary.
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