I figured I'd start of my series of romantic movies with something I'd have a strong chance at liking. Steve Martin has not excited with many of his roles over the last 15 years or so, but Roxanne (1987) is considered one of his better movies, so I was confident I'd enjoy it. When Martin's on, he's on, and here, he's on.
With a script based on the play Cyrano de Bergerac, Martin plays C.D. Bales, a small-town fire chief with an improbably long nose. However, his charm, wit, and willingness to help everyone make him a rather popular, but he's insecure about the nose. When astronomer Roxanne arrives (Daryl Hannah), he falls almost instantly in love, but she sets her eye on hunky but dumb Chris (Rick Rossovich), a new fire expert helping C.D. whip his inept crew into shape. Chris, a nervous wreck around women, enlists C.D. to help him woo Roxanne, having him write letters and be his voice at the proper moment.
Surprisingly, Martin does not play C.D. as a wild-and-crazy guy. He's more laid back and less outrageous than he usually is. What I appreciated is how C.D. is not turned into a lovable goof. Instead, he's sharp, quick-witted. I could have spent the whole movie just listening to him talk. We're not meant to pity him because his nose has turned into an outcast; he's the life of the party.
But there is depth to the role. He acts out and draws attention with his personality to distract people for his elongated facial feature. C.D.'s personality is what Roxanne falls in love with. She's moved by the words she reads and hears but doesn't realize who they're really coming from. She's attracted to Chris' looks and overlooks C.D. because of his nose. The nature of the relationship, with C.D. expressing his true feelings on behalf of Chris, is both funny because of the lengths they go to maintain the deception and poignant because you can tell it's eating C.D. up to win the girl for someone else.
The plot moves along in a fairly predictable manner, but the movie makes the most of its hook. One of the funniest scenes occurs when Chris shows up at Roxanne's house wearing a hat wired to a microphone so C.D. can feed him lines. Martin steals the scene listening in while sitting in the back of a van. Later, in a scene I'm certain occurs in Cyrano, C.D. professes his love to Roxanne below her balcony while remaining in the shadows so she thinks it's Chris. Many laughs are mined by contrasting C.D. romantic and poetic nature with Chris' moronic interjections.
The romance is fairly sweet. It's not overly sappy, but I will admit Roxanne takes so long to figure out the truth I kept thinking she's not as smart as we're led to believe. The slapstick involving the training of the firemen is pretty funny and doesn't feel distracting. Overall, Roxanne is definitely worth watching if you're a fan of Steve Martin or romantic comedies.