Romance and Cigarettes (REGION 2)Listen to Zach and Bill’s podcast review of Romance & Cigarettes at MovieBonfire

Filmed in 2005, John Turturro’s third foray into the writer/director realm of filmmaking is finally making the theatrical rounds as Turturro himself tours with the film - partly to garner exposure for the 2008 DVD release and partly to ensure that everyone involved in the production has their chance at an Oscar nomination. Though it’s not very likely anyone will be nominated for their work in Romance & Cigarettes, Turturro’s star-studded cast delivers some of the most stunningly uninhibited work in recent memory.

The Sopranos star James Gandolfini plows his way through the film as the protagonist Nick Murder in this everyman’s musical – while not a formal genre, the description is fairly apt for this unique film, as it features numerous familiar ditties with the cast singing along and dancing in the streets. When Nick’s wife Kitty(the ever-impressive Susan Sarandon) discovers a love letter he wrote to his mistress Tula (Kate Winslett in a dazzling performance that could easily be described as a tour de force if Winslett didn’t make it look so easy), things start falling apart in the Murder family. His three daughters (Mandy Moore, Mary Louise-Parker, and Aida Turturro) turn on him, and Kitty sets out to find Tula and give her what for. Meanwhile, garbage men dance in the street, Nick gets circumcised, and a whole lotta foul-mouthed dialogue gets tossed around, with the best reserved for Winslett as an insatiable redhead with a Scottish brogue.

Turturro said he began writing the screenplay for Romance & Cigarettes while working on the Coen Brothers film Barton Fink, which may be why the Coen’s signed on as producers (and why it has a slight Coen-esque feel at times). But this is no Coen knockoff; Turturro has his own vision and he is sure to display it proudly throughout the film. His plot and directing choices lend themselves to strong performances, and his casting selections only serve to heighten the impressiveness of his characters.

Coaxing incredibly relaxed, fun-filled performances out of his stars, the film plays out like a collection of music videos that never were (but should have been). With strong metaphorical imagery and a powerfully original story-line, Turturro is sure to hook in anyone who’s been feeling bored at the movies lately. The only drawback here is that occasionally the film feels a little too fragmented and the story begins to get a bit muddled amidst all the over-the-top developments and singing EMTs. But for those who can keep up with the story and enjoy the music at the same time, this should become a quick favorite.

Zach’s Rating: B-
Perfect For: The cinemaphile who thinks they’ve seen it all
Stay Away if: You like sticking to the movie-making status quo

To purchase Romance & Cigarettes (on DVD 2/18/2008), visit Amazon
For more information, including theatrical screenings, visit the film’s homepage
To get a taste of the film, check out this musical number on Youtube

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