Romance and Cigarettes

Musical

  • Written and directed by John Turturro

To a radical non-smoker like myself–someone who finds the act of smoking about as sexy as Dick Cheney–the very term “Romance and Cigarettes” seems odd. That’s appropriate. John Turturro’s musical tragi-comedy about marriage and adultery is a very odd motion picture. The songs are familiar hits, and for the most part the cast lip-synchs the original recordings. The dancing looks more exuberant than professional. The cast is outstanding, including James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken, and Mandy Moore.

With its corny songs and dances, raunchy humor, and entirely loopy logic, the first half of Romance and Cigarettes is gut-bustingly funny. And yet there’s something real underneath it. We’ve all been in shaky relationships, and we’ve all wanted to break into song and dance on the street (at least I hope it’s not just me).

But Romance and Cigarettes turns serious in the second half–very serious. And with that turn it finds itself on less secure ground. It’s tricky to move from tomfoolery to tragedy, and Turturro can’t quite pull it off.