Roxanne (1987)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Roxanne</strong> (1987)

(In French, On TV, February 2019) As far as Cyrano de Bergerac remakes go, Roxanne is a better than average reimagining of the basic plot in a completely different environment, which is to say a mid-1980s Washington state small town. (Naturally, it’s filmed in British Columbia.) The deliberately idyllic environment features a gifted man with a prominent nose (Steve Martin, ably carrying the panache required for the role of Cyrano), struggling with his romantic intentions toward another resident and dragged into impersonation when a good-looking but dull romantic rival shows up. The plot is classic, but its reinterpretation is very well done: Actors have to play Cyrano with a formidable strength of character, and Martin (who also wrote the script) gets a few fantastic set pieces to himself, whether it’s an opening sword fight (in contemporary America, yes) or a no-holds-barred verbal joust in which he vanquishes his opponent through overwhelming self-deprecation. Martin is clever enough to make the character vulnerable in other ways, and it’s this internal conflict more than the romantic drama that drives the film forward. The film is predictably less interesting in its last half (in which the arcs must be resolved) than the more character-focused opening, but it’s well done enough to be funny, charming and compelling at once. Good actors help support Martin, with Kelly Preston in particular being quite good as the titular Roxanne. The whimsical atmosphere of the film helps a lot in ensuring that Roxanne doesn’t feel particularly dated even today.

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