The Stage Is Unequivocally Steve Martin’s In “Roxanne”

Steve Martin’s endearing romantic comedy Roxanne sees his nice-guy fire chief try to help a hapless colleague win a girl’s heart only to fall in love with her himself. A amusing tale of mistaken identify ensues.

New to Blu-Ray comes the Steve Martin romantic comedy classic Roxanne made in 1987. Based on the play “Cyrano De Bergerac”, large-nosed fireman C.D Bales (Martin) falls for the new girl in town, the beautiful Roxanne (Daryl Hannah). However, his Pinocchio sized schnozz impedes his quest for love as Roxanne falls for his letters who she thinks are from Bales’ colleague Chris (Rick Rossovich) who is not weighed down by an extraordinary nasal appendage.

This film is clearly a Stave Martin vehicle as his unique blend of pathos and warmth steals the film along with his trademark brilliant comic timing. This seemed to be the first film that showed Martin as more than the zany and crazy guy, this was his first demonstration that he could deliver a truly heart-warming performance as well. Darryl Hannah and the rest of the cast are efficient but there is no doubt this is Martin’s film. Hannah is reliable as the sweet and gentle romantic aspiration of our leading man, but like the rest of the cast overshadowed by Martin.

The film does feel dated now as the romantic contrivance doesn’t feel fresh but it’s the journey not the destination that provides the film’s central charm. The main reason this film generates perhaps over-deserved nostalgic “classic” status is down to one scene.

This is the scene where Bales has learned to turn his handicap into comedy. When a man insults him at a bar he counters with 20 more insults, all of them funnier than the previous. This had me in fits of laughter and is clearly the comic highlight of the film. The rest of the film is more about his heart than his funny bones as he knows how to deal with his nose but not how to feel about it especially when faced with the arrival of Roxanne into his life. The rest of the film is full of smaller but still funny moments.

The film does feel “of its time”, especially the 80s soundtrack and extremely sappy storyline. I can understand why it is remembered so fondly and I have re-watched the insult scene a number of times, but I wouldn’t label it a classic like other films released around the same time such as Ghostbusters and Caddyshack.

roxanne three stars

Written by Lyndon Wells

Directed by: Fred Schepisi
Written by: Steve Martin
Starring: Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Shelley Duvall, Rick Rossovich, Fred Willard, Michael J. Pollard
Released: 1987 | Genre: Comedy
Country: USA | IMDB

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Top 10 Films reviewed Roxanne on Blu-ray courtesy of Eureka Entertainment which released the film on dual format DVD/Blu-ray in the UK on November 21, 2016.

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About the Author
A film geek and cinephile masquerading as a Doctor, husband and father. With my dog Bilbo by my side I seek to prescribe a healthy movie experience through accurate diagnostics. Find me on Twitter: @lwellsfilm

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    Dan Reply

    Definitely a vehicle for Steve Martin but I can’t blame him as he adapted the original stage play and understandably plays up to his strengths. I agree that the stand out moment is the “20 things” scene; a piece of comedy gold and some of Martin’s best ever writing. But I think his talent goes further, I’d put this film just behind Bowfinger (I think) in terms of Martin’s screenwriting. That’s why the film has an endearing quality that defies its age; its message about taking things at face value and its references to bullying and stereotypes, and rising above that, gives it underlying subtext that still resonates. That’s on top of it being a very good mistaken identity-type romance which makes for some very funny scenes and an authentic love story. It stands out for me from the period as one of the better comedies of the 1980s and definitely features a terrific performance from Martin.

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      Lyndon Wells Reply

      Thanks Dan, especially for reminding me of Bowfinger, a film I haven’t seen in ages that I have a big soft spot for. Will be watching that this week and I agree it is Martin’s best writing.
      It is always tough reviewing films like this associated with so much nostalgia of their time period. Unlike other films of this same period Roxanne was not one I was familiar with or remember watching before so approaching it fresh can be tough to review. For example Ghostbusters would get a glowing review, not just because it is a great film, but it is also associated with multiple joyous childhood viewings.
      The mistaken identity element didn’t feel particularly fresh and the film didn’t quite defy it’s age for me. However Martin is a powerhouse and the ’20 things’ scene is indeed comedy gold. I agree the subtext does resonate and I suspect you would have given this film higher rating than I did!

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        Dan Reply

        It is great to hear that the 20 jokes scene still worked for you though. It’s one of the greatest things Martin has ever done in film – both performance and writing. If Roxanne doesn’t quite work on other levels at least it still has that going for it.

        Out of curiosity, do you have a favourite Steve Martin film from the 1980s?

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          Lyndon Wells Reply

          I watched Three Amigos a lot growing up and still find the film hilarious, Martin was also on writing duties for that film.
          But my favourite from the 80s has to be John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles!
          I think I prefer Martin in all out comedy roles but do have a soft spot for his 90s Father of The Bride films that combine his zany comedy energy with a lovely warmth.

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    Huckerby Reply

    My fave Steve Martin movie.

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