Can something be too good to be true? Meeting the girl of your dreams can often be quite a daunting experience. Sure, the plan should surely be to do whatever it takes to be with her, go to any lengths, 'walk five hundred miles', and so forth, but it can be a little intimidating can't it? More often, you do silly things like offer to be friends, counsel and comfort them in times of need, become a part of their lives - for months or even years - but forget that, actually, they do not see you as a partner, but just a friend. You end up helping them in their own love lives, giving advice and being there for them whilst watching them fall into the arms of another - no doubt someone who you think is less deserving of the person you idolise. Where does this all stem from? Although it is not the chosen path of everybody who gets into this predicament, I dare say a fair few people have ended up loitering around, hoping that one day the girl in question may just notice them and look at them in a different light. Perhaps it is because of personal insecurity? If you're not sure whether you can make the girl of your dreams truly happy, give her what you think she really deserves, then why not play it safe and never take the risk of failing? That way you will never know whether or not it would have all gone wrong. Sure, it goes against the old adage of 'better to have loved and lost etc' but really it is the safe option when faced with the notion of messing it all up with the one person that you think you should be with.
Roxanne is the girl of CJ's dreams. Recently moved to the quaint little town that he is the fire chief for, she sets about scanning the night skies for a new star to assign a name to, and immediately takes the attention of the enigmatic fire chief. CJ himself is a patron of insecurity - with an unconventionally long, protruding and impossible-to-ignore nose, he has had to put up with snipes, at his expense, for all of his life. But rather than wander through life shying away from the world around him, he has chosen to embrace his situation and play up to it - if someone is going to mock him, he is going to upstage himself and mock himself more. Nobody can make fun of him worse than he can make fun of himself. And he prides himself on his work, his kind heart, and his wit, friendly and familiar to all the townsfolk and loved by one and all - but also alone. Roxanne, the girl of his dreams, is beautiful and smart and romantic, and everything that CJ wants from a partner - but the way he feels about himself prevents him from ever admitting to any of this to her. Instead, he becomes her friend, hanging with her, helping her out and making her laugh and getting to know her - but in such a way that she is completely oblivious to his true feelings for her. And she really doesn't see him for who he is, instead taking a shine to the new, young fireman Chris, a dumb stud who has the looks and the smile, but simply nothing else to back it up. To CJ's dismay, Roxanne is smitten, and in rather an unusual move, he chooses to help the hapless fool in wooing the girl of CJ's dreams. Trying first with ideas, then feeding him words, both written and spoken - CJ goes to great lengths to prove that he can seduce Roxanne on Chris' behalf, safe in the knowledge that by doing it for Chris, he saves himself the hurt of being rejected because of his nose. But will Roxanne ever truly realise the who the man of her dreams is? The love of her life? Or will she get too caught up with the 'too good to be true' guy that has been created right before her eyes, and leave CJ alone and broken-hearted?
Roxanne is actually quite a poignant love story - or relationship drama - and this should not really come as a surprise as it is based on the original French Cyrano de Bergerac, a classic comedy/romance/drama with the ever-great Gerard Depardieu wrestling with love and life and a big nose. I don't normally advocate remakes, but -strangely - for some comedies like this I can see why they do it. I'm not justifying Pink Panther - leave that one well alone, Mr Martin - but taking a French-spoken comedy and re-working it in a different setting, and in a different language, may actually be more effective than just reading the subtitles. There has surely got to be something lost in translation when you have to 'read' the words spoken by Depardieu in verbally combating his enemies and wooing the woman of his dreams? So, I forgive Roxanne its plagiarism, as it is done with good intentions.
The poignancy comes from the fact that - apart from the trite Hollywood ending - this is quite a tragic love story. Man falls for girl, but helps another man - who he stupidly thinks is more suitable for her - seduce, and even bed her? How awful would that be were it to really happen? And how would you ever forgive each other? Come on, is CJ ever going to forgive Roxanne for sleeping with this other guy and not even noticing him until the other guy turns out to be an idiot? And how is Roxanne ever going to forgive CJ for helping another guy get into bed with her? Come to think of it, why would he in the first place? Crossing the line of most happy rom-coms, Roxanne actually has all this happen (albeit with the aforementioned happy ending), playing out like the kind of protracted, convoluted story arc that you might see in the OC (or several weeks' of Eastenders). Tragic. She's so caught up in wondering whether Chris is 'too good to be true' that she forgets this guy, her 'friend', the man who makes her laugh and makes her think, even exists on any other level, and he's so insecure about himself that he doesn't do anything to stop it - and in fact goes to great lengths to exacerbate the situation.
Steve Martin has had an odd run during his cinematic career. The same comic genius, with razor-sharp quick-fire wit, perfect timing and relentless energy that gave us classics like The Man with Two Brains and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, is also the same man behind a number of Razzie-nominated performances in the likes of Cheaper By the Dozen (and its sequel), Bringing Down the House and the recent Pink Panther remake (and its sequel). How could he make such wrong moves? How could he become such a prime example of wasted potential? Did he just run out of energy? Roxanne was made during his more promising period of good films, where he still had he spark, energy and timing to pull off his trademark jokes. It was also a perfect role for him, as his style of humour definitely lends itself well to self-depreciating jokes - and what better character to play for this than a man who has had to endure mocking about his ridiculously long nose for all of his natural life?
Daryl Hannah does not quite qualify as wasted talent as I have never really seen her give a performance of note. Sure, she's perfectly cast as the ditzy, whimsical mermaid from Splash, the silly, volatile ballet-dancing replicant from Blade Runner, or even the capricious, money-grabbing femme in the power-play shenanigans of Wall Street, but she has never really strayed beyond these vacuous kinds of roles. She seems a little too perfect at playing pretty but vacuous. Roxanne is really no different, a character who everybody seems to fall for but probably nobody knows why - is she really so shallow as to fall for the likes of Chris, who clearly can't string two words together to form a coherent sentence, and whose idea of romance and seduction involves the phrase “Can I fluff your pillows?”
Top Gun's Rick Rossovich is perfectly cast as the pretty-but-dumb target of Roxanne's affection, the hot new fireman who talks Steve Martin's CJ into helping him woo the girl of both their dreams. Rossovich is another seemingly brainless actor, although nobody could really be as dumb as the character he plays here, foolish, fumbling, crass and shallow, he just wants to bed Roxanne and move on. It's a good role, but - again - why would Roxanne be so stupid as to fall for it? And why would CJ want to help this dumb stud bed the girl that CJ would like to spend the rest of his life with?
On a comedic level, Roxanne has just enough laughs - or funny, but tricky situations - to keep you entertained for the most part. The romance may be contrived - or scarily viable to some - but the humour tries its best to keep things more light-hearted (even if they aren't). Martin's scenes are excellent for the most part, he is on top form: performing his own insane acrobatics and stuntwork, dazzling bar patrons and pretentious, antagonistic tennis players alike with his sharp wit and endless barrage of self-depreciating jokes. The whole section where he tells jokes about his nose (a couple directly copied from Cyrano) is absolutely hilarious. You have to admire anyone who can pull that off, and few will be able to deny that there are moments in Roxanne that really show what this man is capable of. And as a romantic comedy, it is strangely compelling, a little bittersweet for my tastes but - if you can ignore the flawed, tragic logic of the whole thing - perhaps a feel-good movie after all. Maybe if you can suspend disbelief enough, you may just be able to pretend that these two walk off into the sunset to name a few more stars together.