Bigger than the Sky

Director: Al Corley

According to Bigger than the Sky's wildly charming and popular star of Portland Community Theatre, Michael (John Corbett), rule number one for his profession is to “never tell anybody in the theatre anything you don’t want everybody else to know.”

Having been a part of the theatre world both as a student actor and later as an employee, it’s a lesson that kept repeating itself again and again as it seemed like everyone from the costume designers to the ticket sellers knew precisely what was happening in everyone’s private life, thanks largely in part to the countless hours actors spend in the theatre where gossip is tangible and relationships begin casually and end messily in love triangles and even infidelity.

The rule of never telling anyone in theatre anything was discovered by Peter Rooker (Marcus Thomas) much too late after the mild-mannered man whose girlfriend has left him and taken 95% of the furniture in their home with her, finds himself intrigued by the local theatre which is holding auditions for a production of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. Feeling stuck in his dead-end job with a condescending bully of a boss, Peter embarks on a depressing visit to the self-help section of his local bookstore where he's so drawn to the classic play that he impulsively goes to the open audition. After he begins feeling completely overshadowed by his scene with Michael, Peter is questioned about his life and reasons for auditioning off the bat by the unusual and inquisitive director Edwina (Clare Walters).

Later, shockingly cast as Cyrano thanks to his honesty, Peter finds himself overwhelmed by the theatrical process as he’s taken under the wing of Michael and also Michael’s beautiful on-again/off-again girlfriend Grace (Amy Smart) who, until finding herself the target of Peter’s affections, hadn’t considered taking part in her pact with Michael to have an open relationship.

Quickly and admittedly predictably, the film which was written by Three to Tango screenwriter Rodney Patrick Vaccaro begins to mirror Cyrano de Bergerac with Peter as the unlikely hero who falls for Roxanne (Smart’s Grace) from afar while knowing full well that Christian (Corbett’s Michael) is a far more better suited rival for her heart. With a whimsical and overly theatrical structure that at times makes it seem a bit like a fairy tale, Vaccaro’s script which he inexplicably felt was a straight comedy according to most critical reviews, is at its best when it’s being played as an homage to theatre by providing wonderful supporting roles for Sean Astin as the cocky actor Ken Zorbell, Astin’s mother Patty Duke in two quirky roles, and a lovely turn by Allan Corduner as Kippy, the unofficial godfather of the Portland Community Theatre.

The film gains much needed spirit and warmth from the charismatic turns by one of my favorite and most reliable scene stealers John Corbett and by Amy Smart who is becoming a promising actress to watch. However, despite a genuinely touching ending that reminds viewers just why we love theatre, one of the biggest problems of the film lies in the main character, which should be the opposite goal of any work purported to be a version of Cyrano. Although Peter is supposed to be a bland character, based on Marcus Thomas’ largely ineffective and vapid portrayal one can’t help but question if the fault came from the writing, direction or miscast actor, and this does greatly affect one's reaction to the film.

For two better modern updates of Cyrano, there’s no beating Steve Martin’s script and performance in Roxanne or the inventive reverse gender approach from writer Audrey Wells in The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Perhaps in a subtle attempt by the studio to make up for the dull main character, intriguingly yet sadly, the manipulative DVD box for the film focuses on the star quality of Corbett and Smart and provides renters with a summary that mistakenly leads one to believe that Corbett’s Michael is the lead, with virtually no reference to Thomas’ Peter Rooker.