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  Roxanne Winning By A Nose
Year: 1987
Director: Fred Schepisi
Stars: Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Rick Rossovich, Shelley Duvall, John Kapelos, Fred Willard, Max Alexander, Michael J. Pollard, Steve Mittleman, Damon Wayans, Matt Lattanzi, Shandra Beri, Blanche Rubin, Jane Campbell, Jean Sincere, Claire Caplan
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: C.D. Bales (Steve Martin) is a fire chief in a small ski resort town who enjoys life as far as it goes, yet there's something he is very sensitive about, which is the size of his nose. It's not too small, it's the opposite of that, in fact it's absolutely enormous, and though he will get along with you just fine if you don't mention it, no matter how tempting that may be to point it out, should you make fun of it then he is very likely to fly off the handle and wreak mayhem. Take today when he is walking down the street to the fire station near dusk and two skiers start making trouble with him regarding his most prominent feature: soon the two men are lying on the ground having been beaten soundly by C.D.'s tennis racket.

Roxanne was of course the update of Edmond Rostand's classic play Cyrano De Bergerac from ninety years before, rescripted as a romantic comedy by star Steve Martin as a vehicle for himself, a role that spoke to the pretension many funnymen (and women) give in to when they wish to prove themselves as a serious thespian. Wisely, though the romance was perfectly, even achingly sincere, Martin made sure to keep the humour levels alive with his trademark sense of the absurd, though even so you could perceive this as the beginning of his decline into family friendly, bland comedies which at times dismayed his fans by being penned by himself, leaving the familiar question, why wasn't he funny anymore?

You did not really have to answer that question when Martin had more than proved himself more than adequately in a variety of media before the safer fare became more prominent, he had earned every acclaim he received so perhaps we should have cut him some slack as he moved into retirement age. Even if that did rankle with you, there was no need to take it out on Roxanne, which while lower key than the wild and crazy works that had brought him fame, was a charming change of pace that demonstrated a quieter, more credible side to Martin while simultaneously delivering the silliness that had served him so well up to that point. Still, there were those who would wonder where the joke was in Bales' longing for Roxanne (Daryl Hannah).

She is the astronomer who has moved into town and immediately caught Bales' eye, but since he suffers severe self-esteem problems thanks to his protuberant proboscis there is no way he will ever approach her with his true feelings, fearing rejection would be the only consequence. It is this self-loathing that causes him to lash out at anyone who makes a mockery of him, and though his wit makes him amusing to be around, you get the impression his co-workers and friends are wary of him, another reason he doesn't seem like boyfriend material. His best friend is his "God-sister" (?!) Shelley Duvall, and she sees him for what he is, yet has never pushed him to better himself towards happiness, or she hasn't until she twigs that Roxanne is now his great, unrequited love, which is just as well since Duvall did not get a tremendous amount to do otherwise.

The firemen were a comically inept bunch to be whipped into shape by their chief, but one of them, new boy Chris (Rick Rossovich) is admired by Roxanne and befriended by Bales, which leads to the familiar business with Chris, who expresses himself poorly though is a decent enough guy, speaking C.D.'s words which entrance Roxanne, so much so that she believes herself to be in love with Chris. It's complicated, and probably worked out better in the source, yet Martin's script settled gently into the romcom mode that papered over any cracks this reimagining might have resulted in. Helping was that there was an angle about encouraging the lovelorn to cope with their hang-ups through Bales' realisation that he did not have to get angry with others when it was himself he was actually angry at, and a moment of clarity when we recognise that the contrivances romance in comedy tends to tie itself in knots with would send people around the bend if they happened in real life, or indeed anyone stopped and wondered what the hell they were doing. That aside, this was light and wistful, thoroughly nice with it. Music by Bruce Smeaton.

[Eureka's Blu-ray has the trailer as an extra and that's your lot, but the film itself looks and sounds rather splendid.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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