Romance & Cigarettes

Romance & Cigarettes
We watched this overlooked musical by John Turturro last night. Ebert had given it four stars, but then again he gave “Across the Universe” four stars. I guess he’s a sucker for musicals. It’s pretty good and very original, sort of like a Sopranos musical- without the mob. Its set in the Jersey-NYC area, with at least one scene in Linden.

James Gandolfini is an ironworker on the Manhattan bridge with his buddy Steve Buscemi, who is sort of a pervert philosopher. James is cheating on hs wife Susan Sarandon, with redhead Kate Winslet (it is specifically mentioned that the curtains match the drapes) who looks better than ever, a curvy Brit broad shaking her goodies all over the place every chance she gets. They break into song now and then, classic rock, doo wop, American standards, James Brown. There are a few great set pieces, such as when Gandolfini is a fireman having to put out Winslet’s flame, and they are very entertaining. Turturro leans into artsy territory now and then, as men in the street howl Bukowski-esque ballads to the female pudenda, but it is always leavened with heaping spoonfuls of Italian-American, Brooklyn-style humor.
My favorite is when Sarandon confronts the mistress and uses the childhood joke, “‘twat did you say? I cunt hear you!” Things liven up when her cousin Bo, played by Christopher Walken with a black patois, bowling shirt and chinos up to his neck, shows up to help her set her marriage in order. He of course gets his dance scene, no point in having Walken in a musical without showing his chops.
Things lean toward melodrama near the end as they patch things up, but it’s a unique take on an old story, with lots of good laughs at the jokes and chuckles at Turturro’s deranged imagination.
I’d give it a solid 3 out of 4 menthols for reaching for the stars and making a unique musical that is very funny, and might be better on Broadway.
You know, especially after Gary Gygax’s death, “Gandolfini” sounds like an Italian wizard. “You gotta problem widdat Sauron? Take it up with the union, ya jamook.”