I’ve been listening, off and on, to a podcast called The Popcorn Dialogues: two writers of romantic comedies (novels) who decided to do a review of movies in their category across the decades to try to learn from them, what works in storytelling and characterization and dialogue and what doesn’t. What makes a good rom com, and can a novelist (or two) learn from the good and the bad and the
ugly of film? It’s a great idea, and the two ladies are charismatic and (usually) fun to listen to (not so much when they’ve had a little extra wine or when they repeat their conclusions for the 83rd time in a 45-minute podcast – which two things often go hand in hand). (I may have to crib off the idea of the podcast: what can I take away from a movie in terms of storytelling – maybe it’ll make me review more films.)
I only listen off and on because I have seen remarkably few of the movies they’re talking about. It isn’t as though they choose obscure little films – all of the original movies are considered classic rom-coms, and most of them are pretty big. I just don’t get out much. Or something.
One I did see long long ago, and not since, was Roxanne. I listened to the podcast for it, and they adored it (except for Darryl Hannah), and that made me want to see it again, immediately. I bumped it up the Netflix queue, and watched it over the weekend.
The ladies were right, as was my memory of having loved it forever ago: it’s wonderful.
The cast, aside from being a proverbial blast from the past, was excellent:
– Rick Rossovich as Chris is (to quote Frasier) “Cute but stupid”: a truly nice, and truly adorable, boy with no self-confidence. The only story-telling flaw I can think of in this was that it might have been nice to know why he’s so phobic; was he a late bloomer, and still getting used to being a hottie?
– Shelley Duvall as Dixie was perfect, warm and strong. She’s the kind of friend everyone needs.
– Fred Willard as Mayor Deebs – Fred Willard!! Enough said.
– Michael J. Pollard as Andy was just adorable. And his history in Star Trek (“Miri”): bonus. I’m a fan.
– Damon Wayans as Jerry – wow. I forgot he was in it. And I never noticed him. Not what you expect from Damon Wayans.
– Shandra Beri as Sandy – one of those actresses who was in everything in the 80’s, from commercials up, and whose name I never knew. She was beautiful and really quite good – great chemistry with Chris/Rick Rossovich; why didn’t she become a household name?
– Blanche Rubin as Sophie, Jane Campbell as Dottie, and Jean Sincere as Nina – three of the elderly ladies who provide lovely grace notes throughout.
– Daryl Hannah as Roxanne … Hannah was hot right then, still riding the (pardon the pun) wave from, among other biggies, Splash. And she was fine; I loved what she did with the last scene. The PD ladies weren’t enamored of her; they didn’t feel she quite filled the role of beautiful geek. And while adding glasses to her boho look didn’t quite cut it as indicator that she’s smart, she did a nice job in the role – she had several good moments, and none that were outright bad.
– Steve Martin as C. D. Bales. All hail Steve Martin. I love Charlie – I’m in love with Charlie – and considering Steve Martin wrote Charlie (wrote the screenplay), I’m a fathom or two deep for him as well. He’s sheer joy to watch; he’s completely unafraid to make an utter fool of himself. He is bloody brilliant. And Steve Martin’s fantastic too.
I’m not as intimate with the details of Cyrano de Bergerac as I could be (he was real???) (and he wrote science fiction – in 1662! “Cyrano travels to the moon using rockets powered by firecrackers and meets the inhabitants. The moon-men have four legs, musical voices, and firearms that shoot game and cook it” – wow), but I love the use of what I do know. “C.D.” for Cyrano de; Chris for Christian de Neuvillette; a firehouse instead of a corps of the French army (still a brotherhood). From what I’m reading it follows the story faithfully
(except for the ending) – and does it with joy.
In terms of storytelling, there was one scene that was to me a gorgeous little model of efficiency.
We see Roxanne seeing Chris in a bookstore
Chris: Hey, did that copy of ‘Being and Nothingness,’ by Jean…
Clerk: Jean-Paul Sartre? Yes, it did. I got it right here! It’s all paid for.
Chris: Great! Okay, thanks a lot.
Clerk: De rien. Il n’y a pas de quoi.
Chris: All right, okay…
Clerk: It ain’t nothing, bro!
Chris (reading as he goes back out on sidewalk): “… Therefore my body is a conscious structure of my consciousness…”
Andy: Yeah. Thanks, Chris. I was too embarrassed to go in there and ask for it myself.
Chris: A little light reading, huh, Andy?
In nine lines, 77 words, here’s what we get from that scene:
– – Roxanne takes away the impression that Chris is a reader; I’m not sure whether she overheard what he was picking up, but even if not – well, he’s only been in town a few days and he’s already in the bookstore? This is a definite plus in a man.
– – Andy is more than just the sweet and kind of dim guy he appears to be, but not very confident in being more – which might be why his appearance is deceiving
– – Chris not only doesn’t speak French, he doesn’t know Jean-Paul Sartre from Jean-Luc Picard, and a bookstore is actually very much not his natural habitat. And he does not speak French.
– – While Chris is sweet and kind of dim, he’s also a very nice guy, willing to do a favor for someone he’s only worked with a couple of days, and refraining from teasing him as some of the other firefighters probably would have. He seems a little impressed at the end – as he should be.
The movie was written by Martin, which makes me very happy. It’s beautiful.
C.D. Bales: I really admire your shoes.
Drunk #1: What?
C.D. Bales: I love your shoes.
Drunk #2: What do ya mean?
C.D. Bales: And I was just thinking: as much as I really admire your shoes, and as much as I’d love to have a pair just like them, I really wouldn’t want to be IN your shoes at this particular time and place.
The firehouse scenes (Operation Snowball!) were sweet; the old ladies were wonderful (I can’t do the alien sound effect); taxidermy-man (“All Things Dead”) was perfectly creepity; it was just grand. The story ran a beautiful course to a satisfying ending (happily not the original). It won’t be as long again until I watch Roxanne again – that was just too much fun.