John Simon asserted that Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac is not a great play, merely a perfect one (which amounts, of course, to a great deal). The 1987 movie that Fred Schepisi and Steve Martin derived from Cyrano—entitled Roxanne—is neither great nor perfect, but it is mightily amusing and slightly literate. It has a pleasant cast too: a not-bad Daryl Hannah, a comfortable Shelley Duvall and Rick Rossovich.
Steve Martin, the film’s modern Cyrano, can go overboard as both actor and writer. Approvingly, Pauline Kael wrote that Martin “seems to crossbreed the skills of W.C. Fields and Buster Keaton . . . ” Well, he has some of Keaton in him, but certainly none of what Fields had. He isn’t down to earth. But he too is pleasant: in Roxanne, he is an actor of personality, of zany savoir-faire.