A sensitive fireman believes he has no chance of ever winning the heart of a lovely astronomer owing to his large nose and instead agrees to help a handsome colleague woo her, causing himself no end of heartache.
Nimbly adapted by Martin himself (for which he won the American Writers’ Guild prize) from the celebrated Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac, this is romantic comedy as it used to be, with Martin playing CD Bales, the nasally gifted fire chief who falls for heavenly stargazer Daryl Hannah.
Directed by Fred Schepisi, it’s remarkably faithful to Rostand’s original work, cleverly transplanting the action from 17th-century Paris to present-day, small-town America, and imbuing the sensitive CD Bales with considerable duelling skills.
From the moment he swashbuckles with a tennis racket, it’s clear Martin is on peak form, particularly during the hilarious nose-jokes sequence.
The respected American critic Pauline Kael detected in Martin’s portrayal a touch of Buster Keaton and WC Fields, with just a dash of the graceful Fred Astaire added for good measure. Indeed, Martin’s firefighters also recall some past movie greats, the Keystone Kops, although the general air of incompetent shirking also puts you in mind of Will Hay and his inimitable sidekicks Graham Moffatt and Moore Marriott.
Schepisi keeps the action as buoyant as Martin’s performance, while also coaxing a deliciously doltish turn from Rick Rossovich, who woos Hannah using Martin’s eloquence.
Michael J Pollard