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LOVE NOSE NO BOUNDS
Member Name: Mauri
Date: 14/03/07, updated on 14/03/07 (274 review reads)
Advantages: Funny witty script, Steve Martin, Darryl Hannah
Disadvantages: Only minor flaws in the plot
Every since Steve Martin started out as one of the new breed of stand up comedian he has always managed to divide opinion between fans who thought he was creating a distinctive quirky type of humour and those detractors that considered him too slap stick and inane. Over the years he has gradually matured his style first translating it to film with low-brow classics such ‘The Jerk’ (1979), ‘The Man With Two Brains’ (1983) and late to more intelligent comedy of ‘Parenthood’ (1989) and more recently some serious roles in ‘Leap Of Faith’ (1992). ‘Roxanne’ made in 1987 probably represents the first film which really saw Martin attempt something a little outside his usual visual comedy slapstick comfort zone. This is in fact more of a romantic comedy than a straight comedy drama and Martin proves that he can be taken more seriously in role without being any less funny.
‘Roxanne’ is a modern if somewhat loose adaptation of the classic 19th century play ‘Cyrano De Bergerac’ by Edmond Rostand. In the original Cyrano a heroic swashbuckling figure based on the true life Cyrano de Bergerac. The real life Cyrano was a dramatist and famous duellist in the 17th century who despite this has also become famous for the size of his nose. Steve Martin has updated the story to modern small town America where the heroic and swaggering Cyrano character has been transformed into C.D. 'Charlie' Bales the local fire chief and respected inhabitant of the small town of Nelson. C.Ds ordered life is disrupted by two new arrivals to the town, Chris a new recruit to the fire station and Roxanne a beautiful visiting Astronomer who he immediately falls for.
C.D is charming, athletic and intelligent and is liked by all; in fact he should be a great catch for any woman the only problem is his self consciousness about the length of his nose. It certainly is not something that can be ignored and all the people of the community have learnt to avoid making any references to it. Unfortunately the newcomers are unaware of this. Chris the hunky new fireman as the looks that C.D lacks but doesn’t have much going on in his head and when he admits to C.D, that he has taken a liking to Roxanne unaware of C.D’s own feelings for her CD agrees to help him woo her. This is something he secretly wishes to do himself but doesn’t give himself any chance because of his looks. In order to express his real feelings for her C.D is prepared to help Chris and let him take the credit. This is brilliantly illustrated during a Romeo and Juliet type balcony scene with a difference. The situation becomes ever more ludicrous as thanks to C.D’s help Roxanne does in fact fall in love with Chris.
CAST , PERFORMANCES AND OPINION
Steve Martin ... C.D. 'Charlie' Bales
Daryl Hannah ... Roxanne Kowalski
Rick Rossovich ... Chris McConnell
Shelley Duvall ... Dixie
John Kapelos ... Chuck
Fred Willard ... Mayor Deebs
Max Alexander ... Dean
Michael J. Pollard ... Andy
Fred Schepisi directs the film and the script is adapted from the original play by Edmond Rostand by Steve Martin.
Steve Martin has adapted the original play in a clever way, the swashbuckling Cyrano the greatest swordsman in all France as been update so that in one of the opening scenes he dispatches a couple of thugs not with a sword but with a tennis racket (a direct reference to the original play). Some of the key scenes in the play remain virtually unchanged. When a lout in a bar calls CD a ‘big nose’ over some petty argument C.D. like Cyrano before him challenges him to a verbal competition - is that the best you can come up with? He then launches in to list of 20 ‘themed’ insults about his own nose. For example
“Personal: well, here we are, just the three of us”
“Humorous: laugh and the world laughs with you. Sneeze, and it's goodbye, Seattle!”
“Pornographic: finally, a man who can satisfy two women at once!”
“Polite: uh, would you mind not bobbing your head? The, uh, orchestra keeps changing tempo”
The scene is funny but at the same time it includes an element of pathos too since we guess that many of the insults that C.D. rattles off to make his opponent look ridiculous are probably ones that he has had used against him in the past and it emphasises what he has been through.
Daryl Hannah looks stunning in this movie, right from the first scenes when she is found by C.D standing naked outside her house after locking herself (he gallantly comes to her rescue) we can understand why he immediately falls under her spell. It might be harder for us to believe that someone so beautiful could be an astronomer but even this prejudice plays in to the theme of the film that appearances can be deceptive and in the end it is what’s on the inside that counts. She in turn is attracted to Chris because of his physical looks but she is seduced by the words that CD puts into his mouth. C.D on the other hand his also attracted initially by her looks but then resents the fact that she is so shallow to be attracted to Chris for his looks and it’s only after he comes to appreciate her nature exemplified by how she reacts to his words (mouthed by Chris or in letters) that he truly falls in love with her.
Despite many fine performances and a couple of great cameos form Michael J. Pollard and Shelly Duvall the film is dominated by Martin and he seems to relish the role his enthusiasm for the character easily infecting the viewer. The rest of the cast seem content to play second fiddle.
Since the original play is a tragic comedy while very funny in parts using a great amount of physical humour someone with Martin’s comic skills was always going to be adept in any version without trying too hard. However to give Martin due credit the updated story does more than simply set the original in a modern setting it modernises the themes and makes them more accessible for a contemporary audience and with the help of some good direction by Fred Schepisi the modern day Cyrano has lost none of its charm or pathos.
The script is bristling with great one-liners and witty dialogue.
"It must be wonderful to wake up in the morning and smell the coffee -- in Brazil."
"What's a light year? Same as a regular year only it has less calories."
“I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream - and I hope you don't find this too crazy - is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, "Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!" That would be bad.”
The balance between physical comedy and witty dialogue is just about perfect.
As an example of the romantic comedy genre this is certainly a cut above most of the lazy uninspired attempts we see these days. The story does follow a familiar formula; boy meets girl, girl meets other boy, boy has to win her back but with enough variations in that the two rivals for Roxanne’s affections are in effect mismatched and one helps the other gain that affection making the story more interesting than it would otherwise be.
As in other of Martin’s films some of his physical comedy remind me of the early silent movie stars and I think he lists Buster Keaton amongst his favourites, it seems that in this film he has drawn upon some of the physical humour of the early comedies. One stunt where he enters a house via the roof through an upstairs window is just one that homage’s the silent film era.
The one bone of contention I would have with the film is in its conclusion, which without giving away too much doesn’t quite achieve the same dramatic impact as Rostand’s original. This is probably a decision taken with the American audiences in mind, a pity but not a major flaw. On the plus side the film never descend into the sugar coated sickly sentimentalism of so many romantic comedies that have often blighted otherwise fine films.
Overall this is one of Martin’s best films, which will please fans of his early more crass humour as well as fans of his later more thoughtful films.
Certificate PG in the UK
The film is available of DVD from Amazon for £3.97 (+p&p) at the time this review was written.
© Mauri 2007
Summary: A modern adaptation of the classic play Cyrano De Bergerac