Directed by Fred Schepisi
Written by Steve Martin, based upon Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
Starring Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Rick Rossovich
When I first started seeing Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live, I didn’t much care for him. He would come on stage, looking and sounding like he was about to be funny, but I would realize afterward, it was all presentation: he wasn’t all that funny. In the “wild and crazy guy” skits, he was always overshadowed by Dan Ackroyd.* And his early films seemed to confirm my feelings.
But a funny thing happened. For some reason, even though I didn’t like him as an actor, I started watching his movies. All of Me showed that he could be a good actor when he wasn’t playing a comic. And Roxanne made me change my entire opinion of him.**
Now, let me make one thing clear. I’m a big fan of Cyrano de Bergerac, starting when we read it – in French – in high school. I also love the movie with Jose Ferrer** and Roxanne is a great adaptation, modified for modern times.
You know the story. Cyrano is named C. D. Bales (Martin), in love with Roxanne (Daryl Hannah). But Roxanne loves the handsome Chris (Rick Rossovich). Chris is inarticulate, but Bales – with an large, ugly nose – helps him with Roxanne by supplying romantic words and letters.
Martin was a surprise as a romantic lead and his performance is just perfect. His Bales is a little less stiff than Jose Ferrer’s, and his romance seems even more heartfelt. Hannah makes a charming modern-day Roxanne.
The rewrite gives the movie a happy ending.**** but that can be forgiven. It’s overall a wonderful reworking of a great play.
*I didn’t like “King Tut” because it paled in comparison with the Bonzo Dog Band far nuttier “Ali Baba’s Camel.”
**I discovered later that Martin wasn’t so much as being a comedian, as playing a comedian. He was acting a role.
***It used the translation by Brian Hooker, considered the best and most faithful to the original. Comparing it to the French version, it clearly uses the best choices that keep with the original. One moment, for instance, is when Cyrano insults a man by saying he is not a man of letters, except for three. In French, it’s “F-O-U” (crazy). Hooker directly translates the speech, but uses “A-S-S.”
****Spoiler: Cyrano de Bergerac is a tragedy.