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Film / Roxanne

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"What makes Roxanne so wonderful is not this fairly straightforward comedy, however, but the way the movie creates a certain ineffable spirit. Martin plays a man with a smile on his face and a broken heart inside a man who laughs that he may not cry. He has learned to turn his handicap into comedy, and when a man insults him in a bar, he counterattacks with 20 more insults, all of them funnier than the original. He knows how to deal with his nose, but he has never learned how to feel about it."
Roger Ebert, in his review of the film

Not your average Romantic Comedy, this 1987 film, directed by Fred Schepisi and starring Steve Martin (who also wrote the screenplay) and Daryl Hannah, is a Setting Update of the play Cyrano de Bergerac.

It tells the story of Charlie "C.D." Bales (Martin), the long-nosed fire chief of a small Quirky Town in the Pacific Northwest, and Roxanne Kowalski (Hannah), a visiting astronomy PhD student. C.D., in love with Roxanne from the start but violently self-conscious about his schnozz, settles for helping a handsome but ditzy and awkward fireman (Rick Rossovich) woo her. The results are predictable, if you know the story, but the humor surrounding the town and C.D.'s nose set the movie apart. While not as highly acclaimed as the more faithful 1990 film adaptation of Cyrano, it's still considered an enjoyable film in its own right and one of the biggest highlights of Martin's acting career.

The supporting cast includes Shelley Duvall, Fred Willard, Michael J. Pollard, and Damon Wayans.

"Twenty better tropes than just 'Big Nose'":

  • The Ace: CD is great at everything except dating, because he's insecure about his nose.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Cyrano is traditionally portrayed with a huge, meaty nose. In this film, C.D. has a fairly normal-sized nose except for the tip, which is very long, allowing Steve Martin to remain a handsome leading man in spite of the unusual feature.
  • Artistic License Physics: Roxanne tells C.D. about how romantic quarks are, reading him a passage from a physics textbook that states that top and bottom quarks are the most common, followed by up and down quarks, but that only exotic reactions could create strange and charm quarks. But this cyclically permutes the quark flavors: top and bottom quarks are actually the rarest. In fact, when the movie came out the top quark hadn't even been detected yet; it was only theoretical at that point.
  • Artistic License Space: According to IAU rules, a new comet is named after its discoverer, the team or program that led to its discovery, or (on very rare occasions) is given a generic name like "The Great Comet of 20xx"). Sorry, but unless Bales actually discovered it, no "Comet Charlie" for you!
  • As You Know: The film explains why CD can't get a nose job in an early scene where a plastic surgeon reminds him, as if for the hundredth time, that he's (fatally) allergic to anesthetic.
    C.D.: Then we'll do it the old-fashioned way! (breaks out the bottle of booze)
  • Berserk Button: If you insult C.D.'s nose, prepare to be shown up, then decked! One funny moment has C.D.'s mild reaction to Chris going on about how big his nose is, since C.D. is on a high thinking Roxanne is into him, with everyone but Chris fleeing the scene thinking he'd beat Chris to a pulp. However, when he doesn't do it and one of the firemen muses that C.D. finally has a sense of humor about his nose, C.D. wordlessly yanks him down by his tie.
  • Beta Couple: Chris and Sandy hit it off pretty quick right after meeting, and ultimately end up together.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Aside from C.D., you have a Noodle Incident with Andy (played by nebbish Michael J. Pollard), who just knocked Jerry (Damon Wayans) out.
    Andy: Hey, he owes me fifty bucks.
    Ralston: You animal!
  • Blatant Lies: C.D. "mistakenly" believes that Roxanne's sarcastic refusal of a coat while standing naked in the bushes is sincere, claiming that the town hasn't had any irony for many years.
  • Book Dumb: Chris isn't stupid, being a skilled fireman, but he's not an intellectual like C.D. and Roxanne. His note to Roxanne in the end contains spelling errors.
  • Brick Joke: One of the drunk skiers C.D. gave a beat-down to at the beginning is at the bar when the Jerkass barfly picks a fight with C.D. You can see him looking up sharply when the jerk calls C.D. "Big Nose," then he starts shaking his head and trying to wave the guy off when it's clear C.D. is gearing up to let the guy have it, both mentally and physically.
  • Cannot Talk to Women: Despite his good looks and prowess as a firefighter, Chris, is very shy around women, or at least Roxanne, whom he's desperate to impress. Part of why he ends up with Sandy instead of continuing to go after Roxanne is because he can just be himself around her and not struggle to be deep or profound.
  • Chekhov's Gag: CD's joke about having birds perch on his nose comes back later when he's shown to do this with his actual pet bird.
  • Continuity Nod: A few to the original play.
    • C.D.'s jokes about giving birds a perch and his nose being 15 minutes ahead of him are both in the play.
    • The Alien Abduction joke is based on the Man from the Moon speech from the play.
  • Coitus Interruptus: C.D. falling out of a tree to tell the old women a story about aliens who love sex with older women was to get them to rush off to Roxanne and Christian's location to prevent them from getting intimate.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: When C.D. tells the drunk who calls him "Big Nose" that he can think of way better insults he could have used, C.D. challenges him to throw a dart at the board and he'll come up with however many insults as points he scores. C.D. delivers on this spectacularly, but thanks to the drunk's impressive dart skills, he had to come up with twenty.
  • Deadpan Snarker: C.D. has a quick wit and is prone to making dry or sarcastic comments.
    C.D.: I think it's brilliant! What an idea! And I was there! He took the idea! He saw it ripe on the tree, he plucked it, and he put it in his pocket. It's, it's, dare I say... genius? Ah, no, no! But maybe (acts as if he just stepped in shit, checking his shoe) ooh! ah! maybe it is! Maybe I'm in the presence of greatness, maybe I just don't know it. But I saw it...
  • The Ditz: Chris is just a regular guy, so he's always a step or two behind C.D. and Roxanne.
  • Earpiece Conversation: C.D. tries to coach Chris through an earpiece during a date with Roxanne.
  • Gag Nose: Rather than a huge, meaty, bulbous nose as Cyrano is usually given, C.D.'s nose is fairly normal sized except for the tip, which is extremely long.
  • Handwave: In these modern times, why couldn't someone like C.D. just get a nose job? Well, he's allergic to anesthetic. Just go with it.
  • Ignore the Disability: "Would you like a little wine with your nose?" and others.
  • I Have This Friend: C.D. asks a pharmacist about shading creams, saying that he has a friend who would like to cover up a certain "feature." She's not fooled in the slightest.
  • Insult Backfire/Wrong Insult Offence: When a man in a bar calls him "Big Nose" to pick a fight, CD mocks him for not being able to come up with something more imaginative. Subverted in that C.D. is really furious, but maintains Tranquil Fury, probably because of the presence of a crowd of people including Roxanne, and didn't want to embarrass himself with an outburst.
  • Jerkass: The drunk skiers at the beginning and the barfly who calls C.D. "big nose" for no reason other than to pick a fight - all of whom are swiftly and awesomely put in their places by CD.
  • Joke Exhaustion: Steve Martin's Cyrano Expy does this regarding his own huge nose to show up a less-clever rival's lame insult.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: When C.D. seduces Roxanne for him, a combination of guilt and nerves prevents Chris from sealing the deal more than twice.
  • Long List: When a guy at the bar calls C.D. "Big Nose," C.D. chastises him for not being able to think up anything better. He offers to come up with whatever number of insults the guy can hit with one throw at a dartboard. The guy hits 20, and C.D. more than makes good, reeling off 25 nose jokes (each in a different category) before the guy takes a swing at him and gets knocked out.
  • Loved by All: Despite his nose, C.D. is actually well-liked and respected by almost everyone, save for a few bullies.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Roxanne falls in love with CD's words, believing that they come from Chris.
  • Meet Cute: C.D. and Roxanne meet when she's naked and trapped outside. He helps her get back into her house.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Roxanne when she gets trapped outside naked.
  • Naked First Impression: Roxanne is naked the first time she meets C.D.
  • Naked on Arrival: Roxanne the first time C.D. meets her.
  • Naked People Trapped Outside: Roxanne gets locked out of her house, and her robe gets caught in the door. There is a brief scene of her using her arm and hand to cover her breasts and crotch.
  • Never Heard That One Before: C.D.'s Long List plays with this.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: C.D. pretends to misunderstand Roxanne's sarcastic refusal of a coat, presumably to prolong her nakedness, claiming that the locals aren't accustomed to irony.
  • Offhand Backhand: C.D., after the Long List of jokes, does this to level the Jerkass who insulted him.
    C.D.: Has he fallen yet? (*thud*) Nevermind.
  • Pet the Dog: Early on, C.D. is called to get a kid down from a roof. C.D. talks to him, and finds out that climbed up there to get away from other kids insulting him. Rather than demanding he get down, C.D. just commiserates with the kid and sits with him until he feels better.
    Peter: Do I have to come down now?
    C.D.: No. No, let's just stay up here for a while.
  • Playing Cyrano
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: C.D. to the two drunk Jerkass skiers:
    C.D.: I just want to say that I really admire your shoes. They're really quite nice. But you see, as much as I admire your shoes, and as much as I'd like to have a pair like them, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes, at this particular time. ::cue Curb-Stomp Battle::
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: "The Blue Danube" for the firemen training. It gets a Dark Reprise late in the film.
  • Record Needle Scratch: The music in the bar cuts off this way when one of the patrons calls CD "Big Nose."
  • Sad Clown: A good estimate of the character of C.D., per Roger Ebert's review of the film, quoted at the top.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: When C.D. asks a naked Roxanne if she wants a coat, she sarcastically refuses. CD playfully takes it as an excuse to let her stay naked, later claiming that he didn't realize she was being ironic.
  • Self-Deprecation: When yokels make fun of C.D.'s nose, he shows them how much better he can do it himself.
  • Setting Update: To 1980s America; more specifically, a small mountain town in Washington.
  • Shown Their Work: The movie follows the play very closely. For instance, the duel with the racket, that's in the play. The only change was that the film couldn't have C.D. running around killing people.
  • Sitting on the Roof: C.D., along with a pudgy kid in one scene
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The tale ends much more happily for most of the characters than that of Cyrano de Bergerac. Most importantly: C.D. not only gets the girl in the end, but lives to enjoy it.
    • In a more straight adaptation, the characters who are represented by the tennis players in the play would be killed. But the filmmakers knew they couldn't have C.D. running around killing people in Washington State. So instead, he beats them down with the help of a tennis racket.
  • Stood Up: Chris leaves a curt note dumping Roxanne for Sandy.
  • Stripping Snag: Roxanne gets her bathrobe caught on the front door, forcing her to run around naked for help.
  • Talkative Loon: C.D., but an endearing one.
  • Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket: C.D.'s volunteer fire department. The first time we see the firehouse, CD arrives to find a fire burning in a barrel in the firehouse. This sets him off with an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    C.D.: GODDAMMIT WE'RE SUPPOSED TO PUT THEM OUT! ... 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. (puts the fire out with an extinguisher) Please, get it cleaned up. Don't make me have to explain it.
  • Tranquil Fury: C.D. usually proceeds his nasal retaliations by getting very calm and pretending to play along before exploding into violence.
  • Troll: C.D. just loves teasing a quartet of old woman, such as asking them to repeat the old wives tale about how the size of a man's nose corresponds to... you know ("Oh my GOD!") to stating there were aliens at Roxanne's house who wanted sex with older women because they were more experienced.
  • Unflinching Walk: After beating up the barfly after the long list scene, he doesn't bother to look back, only asking Roxanne, "Has he fallen yet?"
  • Unfortunate Names:
    Roxanne: (Naming the comet she discovered) Comet Kowalski.
    C.D.: "Kowalski"? Why? You've got a chance to give it a beautiful name!
    Roxanne: (unoffended) That's my name.
    C.D.: (embarrassed) It is? Roxanne Kowalski? Oh, heh-heh... sorry.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: In the original source material, Cyrano and Roxane are cousins. Of course, a man being in love with his cousin would be rather less acceptable in modern-day America than 17th-century France, so C.D. and Roxanne are unrelated (in fact, she's only just arrived in town, and they've never met before the film begins).
  • Waxing Lyrical: C.D. sings Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'" in the opening scene.
  • Wrong Guy First: Roxanne dates Chris while maintaining a platonic friendship with CD while unknowingly falling in love with him.