When I took French in high school, I saw many French films in class-La Gloire de Mon Pere, the Lion King en francais, etc., but my favorite one of all was Gerard Depardieu in Cyrano de Bergerac. Cyrano was everything a girl could want..brave, intelligent, funny, romantic…but he had the biggest nose, and nose complex, that anyone in the civilized world had ever come across. Depardieu, in my opinion, played him perfectly. He had all of the passion and wit, all the raw masculinity and contradictory sensitivity (both about his nose and his romantic inclinations) that anyone could bring to the role. And he was French.
So why in the world would anyone want to see Steve Martin play C.D. Bales, the fire chief of a small town, making a delightful comedy of all the drama and passion of this French masterpiece? Because it’s funny, and well done.
Steve Martin’s C.D. Bales is hilarious, but that’s usually the case with Steve Martin. What surprised me was how his manic comedy worked to create this almost desperate mask for the despair he felt that the one woman he truly connects with adores him, so much so she wants him to set her up with Chris, the aesthetically pleasing but dimwitted new fireman. He plays the funny parts with such an undercurrent of anger and sadness, you begin to realize that the humorous C.D. is just a cover for how lonely he really is.
Daryl Hannah as Roxanne is a surprise. I haven’t seen much of Daryl Hannah’s work, but I had the impression that she would be a clueless blonde who they paid to look pretty. I thought that the intelligent, whimsical Roxanne that Anne Brochet had brought to life was about to be defiled by the American film industry. But Hannah is pretty believable as a slightly geeky scientist with a romantic heart.
The plot sticks as close to the plot of the Depardieu version of Cyrano as it is possible for a comedy to stick to a drama. The ending is different. One is romantic, dramatic, and filled to bursting with eloquent prose; one is filled with screaming, accusations, slamming doors, and other comedic rigamarole. Also different, conveniently so, is the tension between C.D and Chris versus between Cyrano and Christian. Christian, we sense, really loves Roxanne, he just doesn’t know how to say it. Cyrano knows this; this is where most of the dramatic pull of Cyrano comes from. C.D. and Chris don’t share the same feelings for Roxanne; they both are attracted to her, but how and why have such different dynamics.
Overall, Roxanne is Steve Martin at his funniest and most endearing (I especially got a kick out of the 2o something betters). This version of the Cyrano de Bergerac story is fun, light and funny. I find that my romantic snesibilities have enough diversity to love Cyrano and Roxanne equal for different yet equally sentimental reasons.
Roxanne: *** 1/2 Stars/ A-
P.S. I got the still from Roxanne from here. This article about Steve Martin is pretty good too! There’s also a link to a youtube video of “20 Something Betters.”