Telluride Film Festival 2021: Red Rocket, C’mon C’mon, Cyrano | Festivals & Awards

Shot in gleaming black and white and told in hybrid style with both fictional and documentary-based elements, his tale chiefly follows the lovably disheveled Johnny, a radio host touring the country and interviewing kids about their hopes, dreams and expectations of the future. Portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix (who is so invigorating to see in a sweetly loose-limbed role after “Joker”), Johnny agrees to care for his nephew Jesse (Woody Norman, an astonishing breakthrough) while his sister Viv (a terrific Gaby Hoffmann) tends to her husband’s flailing health. Eventually, Jesse and Johnny hit the road together for the latter’s work, bonding across New York City and New Orleans. A precocious kid—though thankfully not “Hollywood”-precocious: you know, unnaturally cutesy and saccharine—Jesse proves to be a deep observer at once, one minute acting up with unreasonable requests like any nine-year-old would, the next minute loudly savoring Mozart’s Requiem and taunting his uncle with unfiltered questions.

Phoenix and Norman have heart-wrenching chemistry throughout “C’mon C’mon,” dancing together around the philosophical depth of Mills’ script that unearths immense queries about children and adults: How do we honor our kids’ individuality? How can we acknowledge them as members of society, just as important and worthy as their adult counterparts? How do we hear them, and prepare them for a future in which we will be absent? The interviews Johnny records with kids from all walks of life offer some answers in both intimate and grandly political ways. And so does the increasingly strong alliance between Johnny and Jesse, often aided by an on-the-phone Viv, who supports Johnny in his quest to become a good surrogate dad. Everyone grows in the aftermath of “C’mon C’mon,” a heartwarmingly weighty movie about grief, familial love and youthful fears. And that everyone includes the audience who might shed a tear or two in the end.

Trust director Joe Wright to reinvent a timeless, beloved love story you’ve heard a million times before. Like he did with his scrumptious “Anna Karenina” and transfixing “Pride and Prejudice,” he approaches the timeless romance at the heart of Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac” from his own unique lens in “Cyrano,” adapting a richly inventive screenplay by Erica Schmidt as a kaleidoscopic musical in the tradition of the old MGM.

The tragic story in the immensely original version by Schmidt—the scribe is married to Peter Dinklage (one of this year’s Telluride Film Festival tributes) and is on the record to have adapted Rostand’s play with her husband in mind—is mostly as you remember it. We are in the 17th century Paris, following the prevailing swordsman and brilliant poet Cyrano de Bergerac as he duels his way through and out of trouble, while harboring a deep secret he’s determined to take to his grave. Cyrano is madly in love with the sensitive intellectual Roxane (portrayed in a fiery performance by the glowing Haley Bennett), but because he’s convinced of his ugliness, can never confess his true feelings to her. Meanwhile Christian (the always exceptional Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a handsome nobleman lacking in expressive language instincts, falls in love with Roxane, using Cyrano’s words and poetry to woo her.

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