Review: Roxanne

Directed by: Fred Schepisi
Written by: Steve Martin
Starring: Steven Martin, Daryl Hannah, Shelley Duvall
Released: 1987 / Genre: Romance-Comedy / Country: USA / IMDB
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray: DVD DVD | Blu-ray
Part of our Top 10 Steve Martin Films
If you enjoyed Roxanne also check out: L.A. Story
More reviews: Latest | Archive

Steve Martin falls in love with Daryl Hannah’s Roxanne but there’s one very big problem – his nose. When good-looking Chris arrives on the scene, he asks Martin’s C.D. Bales to help him write love letters to Roxanne. C.D. agrees, opening his heart to the girl but posing as Chris. How long will it take before C.D’s growing love for her becomes too much for him to pose as someone else?

Steve Martin wrote Roxanne as a modern day take on Edmond Rostand’s play about Cyrano de Bergerac. As in the theatre production, Martin plays on the idea Bergerac had an unfortunately large nose. He uses it to create an unlikely love story between a small town fire chief and the titular title character, a beautiful blonde astronomer played by Daryl Hannah.

roxanne, steve martin,

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Martin’s screenplay, part of a loose quadruple of stories about love written by the actor/comedian (which include L.A. Story, A Simple Twist of Fate, and Shopgirl), is his finest. The bittersweet romance has a beautifully dry edge with C.D. Bales’ defiant humour. There’s a couple of great scenes when Bales takes on two rich-kid businessmen who think they can make fun of his unsightly appendage, and again, when a beer-guzzling drunk dares him to make twenty better jokes than ‘Big Nose.’ Martin has rarely been better, both as writer and actor, when he reels off twenty gags in front of a packed bar, simultaneously rising above the bully’s pettiness while demeaning his machismo. It’s funny and tragic, witty and personal. Martin’s jibes burst the bully’s ego, conversely empowering his own stature in front of a fervent audience.

Martin also writes a note-perfect romance between himself and Daryl Hannah’s Roxanne. It doesn’t have the forced, dirty-old-man effect of Shopgirl or the clichéd sentimentality of A Simple Twist of Fate. There’s an authenticity to their relationship. She’s the beautiful girl who is sick of being used for sex, who wants a caring and intelligent man. He’s the self-defeating gentleman who thinks he’s too ugly to be any good to women. But he’s smart and funny, the perfect catch for Roxanne. Yet, Martin doesn’t play it straight – he twists his love-story around a case of mistaken identity. And it works brilliantly, especially in underlining the film’s message that you should not judge a book by its cover.

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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