A Red Headed Woman
"Romance & Cigarettes" debuted back in 2005 at the Venice & Toronto Film Festivals but it wasn't until 2 years later and writer/director John Turturro financing the distribution himself that it made it on to the big screen. I can understand why because making movies is a business and there is nothing safer than something which audiences are use to and "Romance & Cigarettes" is not what audiences are use to. Now that bugs the hell out of those who enjoy original movies and movies as an art form because we are presented with one similar movie after another with those which break the mould struggling to get seen. And that is why "Romance & Cigarettes" struggled to be seen because it isn't a normal movie, it is expletive ridden, sensual, quirky and features sing-along musical numbers from some actors who you wouldn't expect to be doing musical numbers, basically it would have been a risk. But trust me "Romance & Cigarettes" is an experience, a brave, original and unforgettable movie which you will want to watch more than once just because of its quirky musical side.
Nick (James Gandolfini - Surviving Christmas) works high up in the sky as an iron worker, building and repairing bridges with his colleague Angelo (Steve Buscemi - The Island). At home is his wife Kitty (Susan Sarandon - Shall We Dance) and their three daughters but that hasn't stopped him from having a passionate affair with Tula (Kate Winslet - Finding Neverland), a fiery red headed woman. When Kitty discovers some erotic poetry which he has written to Tula all hells breaks out as his family ignore him and so has to find a way to win them back.
I'm not going to waste words on trying to explain what goes on in "Romance & Cigarettes" as whilst John Turturro has crafted an entertainingly clever storyline it is not the story of Nick trying to make amends and make sense of his life which grabs you. But before we get to what really grabs you it has to be said that "Romance & Cigarettes" is not family entertainment as it is full of swearing and sexual references spewed out with an incredible frequency. From Kitty giving it to Nick with both foul mouthed barrels to Angelo describing his fantasy about sex with a tennis player it is not for those who are easily offended, although what I will say is that unlike some movies it isn't swearing for the sake of it as the swearing is part of the characters, it is what makes them who they are. And before I move on it is impossible to forget the sight of Bobby Cannavale's package in tight underwear thrusting its way over the camera.
In many ways that hints at what makes "Romance & Cigarettes" so unforgettable, it is comically in your face in a completely whacky way. Following the argument with Kitty we watch Nick walk outside and we get the first musical sing along moment as we have James Gandolfini singing along to "Lonely is a Man Without Love" accompanied by dustmen, phone engineers and a lot more. And this is what we get throughout the movie from a strange musical number featuring pregnant women in the street, a powerful musical number in a church and Christopher Walken delivering a hilarious musical scene accompanied by Tom Jones's "Delilah".
I would love to get inside into Turturro's mind to fathom out how he came up with such an original movie but because of it he has got some brilliant performances from the cast. You might expect quirky from the likes of Christopher Walken and Steve Buscemi and Susan Sarandon doing musical reminds us of an earlier musical. But watching Gandolfini singing is not what you expect and neither do you expect to see Sarandon fire out lines where so many words are swear words or Elaine Stritch discussing a randy father-in-law. There is a real sense of freedom going on with these performances and it makes it special, not just from the main cast as the supporting cast which includes Mandy Moore and Mary-Louise Parker letting rip with some equally hilarious performances.
What this all boils down to is that "Romance & Cigarettes" is a movie which you will not only want to watch more than once but you will need to because the first time you will be so distracted by the whacky musical side to follow what is really going on. But once watched "Romance & Cigarettes" is never forgotten be it James Gandolfini singing on Kate Winslet as a red headed woman.