Roxanne | Chicago Reader

Roxanne

Update of the Cyrano legend from transplanted Australian Fred Schepisi (The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith), based on Steve Martin's adaptation of Edmond Rostand's 19th-century stage fantasy. It's a seminaturalistic take on Rostand's versifying conceits, with Martin as the nasally encumbered fire chief of a western ski resort who writes passionate letters on another's behalf to the woman he secretly desires. Transposed to a postliterate 80s context, the play's preoccupation with verbal eloquence seems positively bizarre (does anyone under 40 write letters anymore?), and Schepisi, groping for a relaxed, Capra-esque tone, simply can't manage the artifice required. His use of the wide screen as an elongated stage, with action evolving within the static frame, makes some stylistic sense, but there's too much formal slackness for the inspired bits to work. As the silver-tongued romantic with the impossible nose load, Martin affects a sincerity that reminds you of Danny Kaye—funny enough, i guess, but I like the smarmy original a good deal more. With Daryl Hannah. 107 min.

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