Romance and Cigarettes is a 2006 movie directed and written by actor John Turturro. A decidedly offbeat and quirky affair it benefits greatly from the cast assembled, no doubt all happy to do Turturro a favour.
On the surface it's a typical and rather flimsy blue collar kitchen sink story concerning a New York construction worker (James Gandolfini) straying from his wife, played by Susan Sarandon, for the wild and wacky red headed British temptress Tula, played by Kate Winslet who seems to be channeling Jane Horrocks in terms of accent and performance.
Its unique selling point is Turturro's attempt at recapturing (or downright stealing, depends how kindly you want to view it) the musical motifs of British TV playwright Dennis Potter, by having ordinary characters turn to old favourite songs, lip-synching along to the recordings to explain and amplify their emotions. However it never truly coexists with what's around it, making for quite an uneven and hit and miss tone overall.
That said though, it's a cracking soundtrack featuring the likes of Engelbert Humperdink (above), Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Elvis, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper and James Brown.
It's not totally without merit however and much can be said for Winslet's earthy performance, Steve Buscemi - who gets some of the film's best lines and underplays them beautifully, "I like to fuck a woman with an ass as big as the world" and his sympathetic concern when relating a story about Tony Curtis nearly becoming paralysed, and therefore losing his sex drive, following an accident during the war "Tony fucking Curtis" - and Christopher Walken whose Elvis obsessive gets a great set piece performing Delilah by Tom Jones to tell his own tale of tragic love. Let's face it, who doesn't like watching Walken be totally OTT?
In conclusion, whilst it doesn't really work and for that reason I can't truly recommend it, there is still something strangely likeable about it and I guess it's nice to see something trying to be different, even when it ultimately fails.