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Roxanne (1987)

by on 2011/02/23

“It was you. You and your nose, Charlie.”

* * *

I love Steve Martin – have ever since I was a kid. He’s a poetic, sensitive genius with a 20 quarts of seltzer down his pants.

Roxanne is, at turns, an incredibly charming and irritating film. Without Martin, I submit it would have been merely irritating. My sense of justice was seriously affronted for about 88% of the movie. Once I struggled past the outrage, I had fun. Yes, fun … I guess.

A take on the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxanne, directed by Fred Schepisi, also features a tragic-romantic figure who finds himself in love with a woman who is interested in another. Like Cyrano, C.D. Bales (Steve Martin) helps his rival by writing and speaking such beautiful words of love that the insipid woman falls head over heels with other guy.

C.D. Bales is the fire chief of a small town. Bales is great at absolutely everything. He’s smart, funny, capable, brave and kind. He cooks. He keeps a tidy house. Old women love him. He’s strong, acrobatic, and good in a fight.

He also has a big nose. A huge, enormous, behemoth nose. He is a “man who, when he washes his face, loses the bar of soap.”

Roxanne Kowalski (Daryl Hannah) is the smart, blonde new girl in town. An astronomer working on her degree, she meets C.D. after she locks herself out of her house – completely nude.

C.D. quickly falls head over heels for the lovely Roxanne. But alas Roxanne’s not interested, as is the way with these things. She’s only got eyes for a no-neck fire fighter Chris McConnell (Rick Rossovich). Chris is possessed of a Michael Rapaport-grade stupidity. He likes pumping iron, “mixing it up and having fun.”


Chris doesn’t have a way with worms …er, words at all and the brainy Roxanne is somewhat hard to impress. Chris enlists the learned and loquacious C.D. to help:

C.D.: “How did you feel when you first saw her?”

Chris: “Horny.”

C.D.: “But you can’t say you felt horny, you have to change it a little. You have to say – I felt alive, on fire. …How did you feel when you first spoke to her?”

Chris: “I felt like a d*ckhead.”

C.D.: “No, no, no, you can’t write I felt like a d*ckhead. I felt like a child standing in the sun for the first time, feeling only your radiance. …What did you do after you saw her?”

Chris: “I puked.”

C.D. : “After seeing you, my only nourishment was you.”

You get the picture.

C.D. does his job – a little too well – and the unworthy Chris wins Roxanne’s heart. C.D. is relegated to the thankless role of Roxanne’s best girl friend, the one she turns to for relationship advice, help setting up dates with Chris and other excruciatingly cruel favours. It is one of those films where I found myself yelling at the screen (making me very afraid that I might be turning into my mother).

Here are some of the things I yelled:

  • Who asks the fire chief if he can maybe ask out one of his fire fighters for you? Who …does … that?
  • Can’t you hear Chris’ voice just changed completely? Completely? You’ve had at least 4 lengthy, lengthy conversations with C.D.
  • For the love of jeepers, are you deaf?

And so on. Roxanne’s shallow cluelessness bugged me. I guess I was rooting for C.D. a little too hard.

Plus I’m extra sensitive about some thoughtless layabout taking credit for someone else’s brilliance and hard work. I’ve seen enough of that in all the offices I’ve worked in to find it fun to experience in my spare time.

Chris was copying C.D.’s work, like the head of the football team extorting test answers from the bullied nerd.

Despite the enormous nose, C.D. was the quirky, odd but superior being in this piece. But all’s well that ends well, ensuring that my raging sense of outraged rage faded for the remaining 12% of the film.

Roxanne = come for the delightful, pedestrian romcom misunderstandings and stay for the Steve Martin.

* * *

107 minutes

PG for enormous protuberances, stories of alien sex with old women and Steve Martin waging war with a tennis racket

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