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SUBJECTS — Drama; ELA: irony; characterization;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Romantic Relationships; Self-esteem;
Age: 12+; MPAA RatingPG; Comedy; 1987, 107 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.

Description: Steve Martin's Roxanne is a delightful comedic reworking of Cyrano de Bergerac, the 1897 classic play written by Edmund Rostand. Charlie, a man with a huge nose, appears to be blustery and brash, yet inside he is sensitive, intelligent and caring. In addition, Charlie can use words beautifully. Chris, on the other hand, is handsome yet shallow. Roxanne is initially attracted to Chris' beauty but she quickly falls in love when Charlie writes and speaks for the other man. Ultimately, the deception fails; however, in a departure from the original, everyone lives happily ever after..

Rationale for Using the Movie: Roxanne gives young people a lighthearted opportunity to work through important issues they face in a culture which places undue emphasis on outward appearance. The film provokes thought about the pain felt by those who do not measure up to society's conception of beauty and about how they may seek to compensate for their perceived ugliness or disfigurement. Teachers who assign the play Cyrano de Bergerac or who show students the film adaptation of the play may use "Roxanne" to illustrate how the old conflicts, reworked in comedy, can still be the subject of study.

Possible Problems: Minor. The film contains profanity, minor comedic violence, and references to drug use.



Rationale and Objectives
Possible Problems
Parenting Points

Using the Movie in Class:
      Introduction to the Movie
      Discussion Questions


Helpful Background
Irony in Cyrano and "Roxanne"

Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Additional Assignments

Other Sections:
      Bridges to Reading
      Links to the Internet
      Selected Awards & Cast

MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Movies as Literature Homework Project.


Introduction to the Movie: XXXX.


Discussion Questions:

After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.

1.  Why does Charlie go along with the deception that enables Chris to have an intimate relationship with Roxanne and what does this say about Charlie's character? Suggested Response: Charlie has no confidence that Roxanne will ever love him but he feels deep affection for Roxanne and wants her to be happy. The deception shows that he is willing to sacrifice his own interests in order to make her happy but that on another level he wants to prove himself, that his words are worthy of her love. Also, part of Charlie wants to participate in making love to Roxanne and until the end of the story, he cannot do that except by using Chris as his mouthpiece, ironically, making love to the woman that Charlie loves.

2.  Chris and the cocktail waitress develop a relationship and leave together for Reno. Why does their relationship work? Suggested Response: The two are suited intellectually and Chris does not feel nervous in the waitress' presence. She thinks he is funny, smart and well traveled. He does not have to pretend to be something he is not, nor does she.

3.  In the original play, Cyrano dies at the end with his love having remained unrequited. "Roxanne", however, ends joyfully with each character, including Chris, having learned important lessons. What lesson strikes you as most important? Suggested Response: There may be several lessons mentioned. Charlie learns that the risks of rejection associated with earning love are worth taking. He also sees that the pain caused by deception is not right. Roxanne learns the danger of being charmed by superficiality and of valuing appearance over substance. Chris learns that he is not nervous in a relationship based upon equal interests and matched characteristics, as he develops a potentially viable relationship with the cocktail waitress.

For additional discussion questions, click here.


Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

1.  Prepare a presentation for the class that looks thoroughly at the concepts of beauty in today's culture. Use images from magazines or the Internet to illustrate your point. You may want to discuss television make-over shows and cosmetic surgery to illustrate how far an individual will go in an effort to meet the standard concept of beauty. Be sure to consider both men and women in your presentation.

2.  Using Internet research, write an informative essay on the psychological factors associated with beauty. Address the following questions: Are people who are considered beautiful more likely to succeed in employment? Do they earn more money in their chosen fields of work? Are their relationships healthier and longer lasting than people not considered beautiful? What are some of the problems associated with being beautiful? Conclude your essay with an opinion about the supposed benefit of beauty.

3.  See the film "Cyrano de Bergerac" (the best is the 1990bversion staring Gerard Depardieu) and compare its presentation of the story to the one told in Roxanne. Note both similarities and differences. Do not focus on ending alone; instead pay close attention to details that propel both films to similar themes. Write your ideas in a formal essay and conclude with an opinion about the value of each film.

For additional assignments, click here.


There are two excellent film versions of the play. The first was made in 1950 and stars Jose Ferrer. In the second, made in 1990, Gérard Depardiu plays Cyrano. Click here for a Learning Guide to the play and the 1990 film version.

For a brief introduction to the nature of dramatic presentations for the stage, see TWM's The Nature of Drama -- A Brief Introduction. For a form of the article suitable to be modified or printed as a student handout, click here.

In a 1996 release of Audrey Wells film, "The Truth about Cats and Dogs", the Cyrano story is again visited with a twist that may be of interest to students who want to look further into the ideas presented in "Roxanne". Wells reverses the gender roles of the main characters and addresses the issues associated with the fears of being found unworthy as they affect women. The Cyrano or Charlie character in this film is a woman with weight problems whose best friend is a striking and slender beauty. Students might be encouraged to see this film and to report to the class the various ideas developed from notions introduced in "Roxanne" or in the earlier film versions of "Cyrano de Bergerac".

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

Parenting Points: Watch and enjoy the film with your kids. You may want to explain to them that it is a very old story and the original ending was less than happy.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.



This Learning Guide was written by Mary RedClay and James Frieden. It was published on April 30, 2010.

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