(Adapted from a review from sparknotes.com)
In Paris, in the year 1640, a brilliant poet & swordsman named Cyrano de Bergerac finds himself deeply in love with his beautiful, intellectual cousin Roxane de Guiche. Despite Cyrano’s brilliance & charisma, a shockingly large Jimmy Durante type nose afflicts his appearance, & he considers himself too ugly even to risk telling Roxane his feelings. (What could he do? He didn't want to cut off his nose to spite his face.) One night, Cyrano goes to the playhouse at the Hotel de Bourgogne to make trouble: he has forbidden the actor Montfleury to take the stage for one month, but Montfleury figures the show must go on & plans to perform in the night’s production of La Clorise, with Roxane in the audience. Also in the audience is a young, handsome nobleman named Christian, who confides in his friend Ligniere (who I keep hearing as Linguine in my head) that he loves Roxane.
When Montfleury takes the stage, Cyrano heckles him with such chants as “Break a leg!! No, I mean it—break a leg!!", "Sorry, I can't understand what you're saying... I'm wearing a moron filter." & "Is that your real face or are you still celebrating Halloween?" A group of aristocrats tries to send Cyrano away, but he challenges them all to a duel. He fights Valvert, a Vicomte whom the Comte de Guiche has selected as a husband for Roxane. As he fights, Cyrano improvises a poem about the duel: “Roses are red, violets are blue, you look like a monkey & you smell like one, too!!”. Then, upon speaking his last line, Cyrano thrusts his sword home.
His victory & the clever poem cause a sensation, and Roxane’s duenna brings him a message from her mistress, asking him to meet her in the morning. As he agrees, he learns that Linguine has offended a powerful nobleman with his latest satire and that a hundred men are waiting to ambush him on his way home. Cyrano boldly proclaims that having to fight one hundred men by himself sounds fair & that he will see Linguine safely home &, if necessary, fight all hundred men in the process.
The next morning, Cyrano meets Roxane at the local Dunkin’ Donuts. He nearly tells her his feelings, but she confides in him that she loves Christian, who will soon join Cyrano’s company of guards, the Cadets of Gascoyne. She asks Cyrano to protect Christian, and he agrees. Outside, a crowd has gathered for fresh donuts, buzzing with the news about Cyrano’s triumphs the night before. Cyrano angrily ignores them, upset by his meeting with Roxane. When the cadets arrive, Christian tries to prove his courage by insulting Cyrano’s nose; an act generally considered a big mistake. He was on his coffee break so instead of killing Christian, he embraces him and tells him about Roxane’s feelings. Delighted at first, Christian then becomes distraught. He considers Roxane an intellectual and sees himself as a simple, unpoetic man even though his feet were big; they were Longfellow’s. Then Cyrano has a bright idea; he can write to Roxane pretending to be Christian. Christian agrees, welcoming the opportunity to reach Roxane’s
fortune heart. Now, Cyrano
can express all his thoughts and feelings secretly.
One night soon after, Roxane confides in Cyrano that she thinks Christian is the most ravishing poet in the world. Cyrano’s disguised letters have moved her inexpressibly. Christian tells Cyrano he no longer wants his help, & then makes a fool of himself trying to speak seductively to Roxane. Roxane tells him to go screw himself & storms into her house, confused & angry. Thinking quickly, Cyrano makes Christian stand in front of Roxane’s balcony & speak to her while Cyrano stands under the balcony whispering to Christian what to say. Eventually, Cyrano shoves Christian aside &, under cover of darkness, pretends to be Christian, wooing Roxane himself. In the process, he wins a kiss for Christian. Roxane & Christian are secretly married by a Capuchin (a priest, not a monkey), but their happiness is short-lived: de Guiche, pissed to have lost Roxane, declares that he is sending the Cadets of Gascoyne to the front lines of the war with Spain just for spite.
At the siege of Arras, the cadets languish & suffer from hunger. Cyrano writes to Roxane every single day, using Christian’s name. Moreover, he risks his life each morning by sneaking through the Spanish lines to a Post Office where he can send the letters. De Guiche reveals that the Spaniards will attack within the hour. Suddenly, a coach arrives & Roxane climbs out of it, losing a glass slipper. (Sorry, wrong book.) She has longed to see Christian again & brings a couple of buckets of KFC to the soldiers. But Christian has guessed Cyrano’s secret feelings for Roxane & he decides to force Cyrano to tell her the truth & make her choose between them. On the cusp of revealing his feelings, Cyrano is interrupted by a sudden gunshot that kills Christian & shocks Roxane, making her drop the chicken. Cyrano cannot bring himself to tell Roxane the truth, what with the chicken on the ground & oh, yes--Christian's death.
Fifteen years later, Roxane lives in a convent, and Cyrano visits her every week. His friend Le Bret informs Roxane that Cyrano is doing very poorly; he has made many powerful enemies & his life is constantly in danger. Then, Ragueneau (If Lignieri is Linguine, I guess he can be Ragu) rushes in & privately tells Le Bret that Cyrano has been ambushed & hit with a TV set pushed out of a high window by a disgruntled housewife, upset with who was the winner in “Dancing With the Stars”. His health severely jeopardized, Cyrano could die by simply raising his head from his pillow. Le Bret & Ragu rush off to their friend’s side. No sooner have they gone than Cyrano appears at the convent, walking slowly & with a pained expression on his face; bitching & moaning but otherwise sounding as cheerful as ever.
As night falls, Cyrano asks to read Christian’s last letter to her. He reads it, & when it is completely dark, he continues to read, as if he knows the letter by heart. Roxane realizes that Cyrano wrote the letters--she has found the soul she was in love with all along. Upset, Ragu & Le Bret rush in, proclaiming that Cyrano has killed himself by getting out of bed. Cyrano removes his hat, revealing his heavily bandaged head. Roxane exclaims that she loves him & that he cannot die. But Cyrano draws his sword & engages in one last fight with his “old enemies”--falsehood, prejudice, compromise & bad poetry--slashing at the air insensibly. Then he collapses & dies, smiling as Roxane bends over him & kisses him right on his humongous schnozzola.
The full movie, in case you missed it when I ran it last time: