Roxanne (1987)    2 Stars

“Roxanne dreamed of a handsome, intelligent, romantic man. C.D. Bales is two out of three… but looks aren’t everything!”


Roxanne (1987)

Director: Fred Schepisi

Cast: Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Rick Rossovich

Synopsis: Based on the play “Cyrano de Bergerac”, large nosed C.D. Bales falls for the beautiful Roxanne while she falls for his personality but another man’s looks.




Roxanne is American comedian Steve Martin’s updating of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, in which the eponymous hero is a suave renaissance man whose seduction skills are hampered by an oversize nose. And what a nose Martin has here – like Pinocchio’s after telling a little white lie. It provides a handy perch for small birds and an easy target for drunken oafs whose witless attempts at humour are swiftly and eloquently dismissed by Martin’s small-town fire chief C. D. Bales. It’s surely only a matter of time before some witless Hollywood executive hits on the idea of remaking Roxanne in 3D…

Although C. D. Bales (Martin), an intelligent and likeable man, is demoralised by the size of his nose, he hides his feelings behind an affable mask which makes him a popular character in his home town. He’s used to the lame jokes made at his expense and has devised a couple of ways of dealing with it: either comically upstage the joker or beat the crap out of them – as witnessed in a funny early scene in which he engages in a duel with a pair of drunken golfers; instead of rapiers or pistols, however, their weapons are golf clubs and a tennis racquet. The impression is that his nose holds him back from venturing into the outside world, and from risking a romantic relationship with a woman.

Into Bales’ life stumbles Roxanne (Darryl Hannah). Naked as a new-born babe (or angel) after trapping her dressing gown in a door one night, Roxanne knocks on the door of the local fire station in which Bales’ futilely attempts to transform his incompetent fire crew into a coherent unit. Bales is almost immediately smitten with Roxanne, but prevented from pursuing her by his self-consciousness. His dilemma grows worse when Roxanne requests his help in getting her a date with Chris (Rick Rossovich), the hunky but dim new fireman on the block. Chris is equally keen, but lacks the intelligence to hold a conversation with Roxanne that won’t instantly reveal his low wit. So Bales eventually finds himself putting his words into Chris’s mouth as he sets about wooing Roxanne.

Roxanne is a pleasant enough romantic comedy, and Martin makes an engaging and sympathetic leading man, but his writing descends into silly farce whenever it focuses on the scenes between Roxanne and Chris, most of which require Bales to be in close proximity so that he can feed Chris his lines. These scenes are funny-ish in their own right, but seem out of place with the rest of the movie, which is much more gentle and introspective as it peddles its admittedly hackneyed message of how it’s the feelings of a person that matter – not the way they look on the outside.

The film has a likeability factor about it, largely because of the nostalgic way it recalls small-town Americana. There are no villains in Roxanne – other than the aforementioned drunks, who are all quickly dealt with – and it seems to hark back to a time when life was less complicated. Of course, life never was really that much less complicated, but Roxanne makes us wish it was.

Accepting Darryl Hannah as a hyper-intelligent astronomer is a bit of a stretch, but she gives an appealing performance as a woman who Martin works hard to suggest is some kind of celestial being, a part of the night-time skies that she studies. The movie is also populated by a number of likeable supporting characters, from Michael J. Pollard‘s strange little fireman with hidden depths to Shelley Duvall, for whom the decent roles were beginning to dry up, as Bale’s caring friend. However, it’s his leading man for whom the screenwriter Martin saves all the best lines.

(Reviewed 30th July 2012)