Roxanne Movie Review
That sword-fighting scene is indicative of the entire movie's attitude. Roxanne is an intelligent, playful flight of fancy, meant to be judged by the merits of its own universe, not the real world. Martin is a brilliant mind and a beautiful writer, and the light touch of his screenplay allows for this story to be set in the "real world," but graces it with such good cheer and unexpected whimsy that this film is like a fairy tale with jokes.
The film is another in a long line of Cyrano De Bergerac adaptations but is easily one of the very best -- and way more palatable than some of the more literal interpretations. The plot is instantly identifiable for anyone who's seen a few movies: smart, homely guy loves beautiful woman, beautiful woman loves stupid, beautiful man who overshadows homely guy, so homely guy helps beautiful man woo beautiful woman, until beautiful woman realizes she really loves homely guy. Martin's genius as a writer is to realize the story itself is pretty stale and then to infuse originality into how it is told -- in the character quirks, the minor plot details, the subtle literary references, the tangential flights of fancy. Roxanne works so well because Martin elevates the material from standard adaptation to sublime fantasy.
In this updating of the tale, C.D. is the local fire chief in his quaint California town. He is a mastermind, a genius who could win a fight with his words but possesses superior fighting skills as a backup. He can scale tall buildings with ease and impress a crowded bar with his comedic prowess... but of course that big nose is his most memorable feature. He flirts with getting a nose job, but can't bring himself to go through with it. ("Just hearing the word 'rhinoplasty' gives me the creeps.")
Roxanne (Daryl Hannah) is an astronomy student who meets C.D. one fateful night. They become fast friends, but any romantic interest is halted when Chris (Rick Rossovich) comes into town. He is a dumb beefcake, a hunky firefighter with less than half a brain who is attracted to Roxanne -- so attracted, in fact, that he vomits any time he comes near her. Needless to say, Chris is neither a suave lover nor a brilliant wordsmith, so he enlists C.D.'s help to woo Roxanne. Of course, Roxanne is quickly and passionately swooned, but little does she know that the substance belongs to C.D. Chris is merely the pretty face, the deceptive bow on the package.
The film hits all the familiar Cyrano notes: C.D. writes letters on Chris' behalf, feeds him suave lines while hiding in the bushes, and occasionally steps in to speak the lines himself, and Roxanne is none the wiser. The conceit is obviously far-fetched by any standard, but the movie makes no attempt to pretend its story is somehow realistic. In fact, the charm of Roxanne is how it effectively creates its own whimsical world of silly humor and light romance. We believe in these characters and are amused by their actions because they live in a world in which all this farce is possible. Martin and Hannah would be mismatched even without the nose, but they create wonderful, intelligent chemistry that drives their romance. Rossovich brings an oafish charm to the third edge of the triangle; he is such a transparent idiot that we can do nothing but shake our heads with a knowing smile. And Martin's script, the engine for this truly fun vehicle, crackles with literary ingenuity even in the face of a tired premise and well-known inspiration. Roxanne is a wonderful flight of cinematic fancy, one of American cinema's original intelligent fairy tales.