A Fine Romance Friday: Roxanne

I haven’t done a film post in forever! So let’s rectify that with Fred Schepisi’s 1987 rom-com Roxanne. The movie updates the nineteenth-century play Cyrano de Bergerac and stars Steve Martin as a small town fire chief in love with a beautiful astronomer (Daryl Hannah). He assumes she’d never go for a guy like him–namely one with an epic nose. And so when he discovers her crush on the handsome but shallow Rick Rossovich, he gives that guy the right words to succeed with her, saying all the things he wishes he could but doesn’t dare through a handsome mask. Hijinks ensue and the source material is updated with a happy ending.

Roxanne is pretty darn charming. It uses its small town Colorado setting to great advantage, has an excellent supporting cast (led by Shelley Duvall and Fred Willard), and is funny–particularly the self-deprecating exchange in which Martin comes up with twenty creative insults for his own nose and the ear-flap hat/feeding of the lines scenes. In another moment, Martin convinces a group of women to go to Roxanne’s house looking for aliens in order to interrupt a liaison he made happen; his imitations of the aliens with suckers on their hands and feet is a standard joke in my family.

But beyond the obvious humor, I like the film’s quieter moments: the ways in which Martin conveys his character’s vulnerabilities and fears beyond his public persona. The film laughs at his large nose, but it also shows us the shadow of real emotion under the jokes. Plus, the letters Martin writes Hannah are quite romantic.

It’s not ground-breaking and further it’s imperfect. I’m always frustrated that Hannah falls for the ruse. She’s supposed to be smart for crying out loud! But she does get to voice why Martin’s actions were stupid in the last act and he does a good grovel. Plus the film doesn’t engage in any slut shaming for her sleeping with Rossovich unlike another some other films from the same period like The Money Pit.

But despite its imperfections, it’s a great choice for an early autumn Friday, when the sky’s still clear enough to look for comets. On such a Friday, I commend Roxanne to you.

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