Release Date: September 7th, 2007 (Film Forum)
The Cast: James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Bobby Cannavale, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, Aida Turturro, Christopher Walken, Barbara Sukowa, Elaine Stritch, Eddie Izzard, Amy Sedaris, P.J. Brown.
Directed by John Turturro.
BASIC PREMISE: Nick (Gandolfini) has an affair with Tula (Winslet), a prostitute, while his suspicious wife, Kitty (Sarandon), goes hot on his trail.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Sleazy, vulgar and offbeat, Romance & Cigarettes has everything you least expect from a musical dramedy with such a lively ensemble cast. If just the thought of James Gandolfini belching out into song-and-dance numbers sounds frightening, get ready for a scary ride with a few surprises along the way. Gandolfini plays Nick, a blue-collar man who goes through a mid-life crisis when he must choose between a sexy prostitute, Tula, and his wife, Kitty. Meanwhile, his daughters, Baby (Moore), Contance (Parker) and Rosebud (Turturro), drive him crazy. Susan Sarandon gets the opportunity to sing, too, but the real pleasure here is watching Kate Winslet, as Tula, electrify the screen with her sexy performance in bizarre scenes, such as one where she sings under water. As usual, Christopher Walken briefly steals scenes as Cousin Bo, who helps Kitty find Tula. He’s delightfully funny when he sings and dances to the song “Delilah”. The comedy comes from other places as well, such as Steve Buscemi’s character, Nick’s co-worker at a construction job who convinces him to get circumcised to please Kitty. Also, Elaine Stritch, as Nick’s mother, has a few witty lines, like when someone asks her how she’s doing and she replies, “Every breath’s a victory.” Writer/director John Turturro has clearly written a bold, zany film that tries to be shocking, but, unfortunately, unlike the consistently exhilarating and refreshing musical Across the Universe, it loses its momentum during the last hour when the genre suddenly shifts into a dull, schmaltzy drama without the tongue-in-cheek humor of the first hour.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: None is required or desired.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: An uneven plot that becomes dull and schmaltzy.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 3
IN A NUTSHELL: A bold, offbeat and lively, but ultimately uneven, erotic musical dramedy.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: DVD
The "R" Menu