Steve Martin: C.D. Bales
Daryl Hannah: Roxanne
Rick Rossovich: Chris
Shelley Duvall: Dixie
Screenplay by Steve Martin (based on the play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand)
Directed by Fred Shepisi
Steve Martin is one of my heroes. He's a comedian, actor, writer, musician, and art connossieur. I've listened to all his comedy and bluegrass albums, read all his novels and collections of short pieces, and I've seen almost all of his movies. I'm not a completist, but I'm damn close.
I saw Roxanne the weekend it opened in the summer of 1987 and was enthralled. This was a different Steve Martin. This was not The Wild and Crazy Guy or The Jerk. This was not the Steve Martin who gave us the wonderfully absurd Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid and The Man With Two Brains. Roxanne was a gentler comedy in love with language and whimsy. Not unlike the first time Martin's fire chief C.D. Bales laid eyes on Daryl Hannah's astronomer Roxanne, I was instantly smitten.
The story is adapted from the play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. Martin plays C.D. Bales, the chief of an inept fire department in one of those idyllic small towns that only seem to exist in movies and television. He hires a hunky fireman named Chris (Rick Rossovich) to train his team. Around this same time, Roxanne comes to town to study and search for an elusive comet. Both men fall instantly in love with Roxanne, but she has eyes for Chris. Unfortunately, Chris can't talk to women beyond superficial comments about their bodies. He's a nice guy, Chris, but not the sharpest tool in the shed. C.D. is far too nervous to approach Roxanne because he has a very long nose. Very long. How long? He doesn't drink wine, he snorts it.
C.D. decides to coach Chris. He will write romantic letters and poems for him and in a very funny scene prompts him via hidden radio on what to say on a date. C.D.'s words matched with Chris's looks creates the perfect man for Roxanne. It isn't whether Roxanne will find out about all this, but when.
And that's not the point anyway.
Roxanne succeeds on two levels. First, the dialogue is sharp, funny, and true to the characters. Second, the movie taps into the insecurities we all have about some part of us and whether or not we'll be accepted for who we are and how we look. Sure, C.D.'s nose is comically abnormal, but most of us some part of us we're self-conscious about. We cope with that differently. I use humor. Which may be a big reason why Roxanne appeals me to so much. C.D. uses self deprecation to deal with his nose. He knows all the best jokes about it because he's already told them. In a memorable scene, a bully at a bar insults C.D., who proceeds to come up with over 20 better ones on the spot. There's a melancholy to it all that is charming. As the saying goes, we laugh that we may not cry.
Roxanne is a sweet movie with a lot of heart and it's the perfect movie to watch with that special someone who loves you just as you are.