Romance & Cigarettes
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr John Turturro
with James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken, Mandy Moore, Aida Turturro, Mary-Louise Parker, Bobby Cannavale, Eddie Izzard, Barbara Sukowa, Amy Sedaris, Adam LeFevre, David Thornton, Tony Goldwyn, Elaine Stritch
release UK 24.Mar.06, US 7.Sep.07
05/US United Artists 1h55

She's smokin'! Winslet (above); Gandolfini and Sarandon

buscemi walken moore


Romance & Cigarettes John Turturro's energetic, stylish musical about love, sex and death is such an outrageous film that it's almost impossible not to adore it, even as it veers awkwardly between drama and farce.

Nick Murder (Gandolfini) is in big trouble when his feisty redhead wife Kitty (Sarandon) finds out about his fiery redhead mistress Tula (Winslet). It's all-out war, and Nick hasn't a clue where to hide. Would Kitty ever forgive him? Could he make a commitment to Tula? His opinionated best friend (Buscemi) isn't much help, and neither are his three daughters (Turturro, Parker and Moore), all of whom have their own issues. Then Kitty brings in her freaky cousin Bo (Walken) to help.

The freewheeling plot is matched perfectly with amazingly raw performances. The entire cast is way, way out there, investing their characters with emotional depth and hilarious quirks, and going for broke in the big musical numbers as they sing and dance along with classic tunes on the soundtrack. All of them have deliriously wonderful moments; the standout is easily Winslet, who's simply brilliant as the tawdry tramp with an unexpectedly fragile heart.

For what's essentially a farcical relationship comedy, writer-director Turturro injects rather a lot of emotional grit and bitter drama into the story, including a few surprisingly serious twists and a remarkable final act that drastically shifts the tone. What starts out as a corny, breezy fantasy slides into a thoughtful examination of the nature of love, romance and, well, smoking. Turturro fills the film with eye-catching imagery, clever editing, surreal time/space gags and dialog that often feels like beat poetry.

The writing, directing and acting are delightfully snappy and trashy--it feels like a swinging John Waters romp (without the transvestites). The garish vulgarity and lewd humour keep us laughing, as do a number of hilarious sequences, most notably a catfight between Sarandon and Winslet and a crazy brawl with the neighbours. And then there are some remarkably moving emotional moments, including lovely examinations of marital bonds and religious faith. Yes, the combination is rather jarring, but it's also startlingly engaging.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 12.Jan.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Romance & Cigarettes kitty, devon, england: 4/5 "whether this film is bad or good is hugely debateable but also quite irrelevent - the main thing is it is original, a real rarity these days. the main problem is it dosent know where its at, the pacing is overfast then too slow at the end - it goes from being amusing to moralistic, and to be honest i was having more fun watching the dancing and singing! Good points include a fantastic cast. The star of the show is an outrageous Winslet. Turturro mentioned that most of her lines wernt written and she in fact made them up. Some fans of 'period' style Kate may if fact be pretty offended - on performance rating alone though this has to go down as outstanding, as the only star of the film whose singing didnt need studio trickery, i say get this girl on the stage. If your open minded and a fan of odd cinema go along, f you want classic film format however dont bother." (24.Feb.06)
2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall