Roxanne (1987) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA rated: PG for language and some suggestive humor
Running time: 107 min.
Cast: Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Rick Rossovich, Shelley Duvall, John Kapelos, Fred Willard, Max Alexander, Michael J. Pollard, Steve Mittleman, Damon Wayans
Small role: Kevin Nealon
Director: Fred Schepisi
Screenplay: Steve Martin (based on the play, "Cyrano de Bergerac" by Edmond Rostand)
Review published March 6, 2013
Steve Martin (The Lonely Guy, The Man with Two Brains) stars and writes this modern adaptation of Edmond Rostand's most famous play, "Cyrano de Bergerac", and while it lacks the classic style and level of true wit of the original, it's an amiable and often amusing update for modern rom-com audiences nonetheless.
Martin stars as C.D. Bales (the initials the same as Cyrano's), a fire chief in a small town called Nelson who ends up falling head over heels for a visiting astronomer, Roxanne (Hannah, Splash), one of the most beautiful and intelligent woman he's ever known. He begins to think that she might even be special enough to see beyond the very large proboscis that is the bane of his very existence. Alas, Roxanne admires C.D., but has a secret thing for one of his new employees in the fire department, Chris (Rossovich, Top Gun), who is certainly handsome, but quite shy with the ladies, and very daft to boot. C.D. decides to bring some happiness to Roxanne by coaching Chris on how to woo her, but the man is so dumb that C.D. finds that he must do all of the courting for him through a series of beautifully written and romantic missives sent several times a day.
Roxanne is, like the oft-told story that inspired it, predictable through and through, but it also, like the best of romantic comedies, has more fun in the journey than the destination. Martin is in his own zone here, with a character so off-beat that he can perform Olympics-caliber gymnastics to climb up and down houses, pull out about 20 insults to show up a bar house braggart, and parry and thwart a couple of no-goodniks with nothing more than a tennis racket. He exists in his own universe, and indeed, he seems to imagine an audience following him around, observing his every feat and folly. He may dress like a schlub, but to someone who can look deeper to the soul within, like perhaps Roxanne, there is a wealth of depth and wit underneath the polo shirts and baseball caps.
Director Fred Schepisi (Mr. Baseball, Six Degrees of Separation) keeps the tone light and colorful, giving pulse to a small town that most people would love to live in, if only for the kooky characters and fun-loving neighbors. Most of the comedy is a mix of physical and allusion, with Martin treading the line between Cary Grant and Buster Keaton. And yet, there are subtle moments, such as when Roxanne reveals her secret crush, a crush C.D. thinks to be him, is actually someone else, and someone not even worthy, we can sense the heartbreak within him though he puts on a good face throughout. It's neither the funniest, nor sweetest rom-com one might engage in, but Martin's fans will find it quite worthwhile, and it is an innocuous, amiable comedy for most other audiences.
©2013 Vince Leo