Romance and Cigarettes
Written and directed by John Turturro

Starring James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon


Romance and Cigarettes

Somehow I missed this sleeper when it came out in 2005, but believe me, you shouldn't, now that it's on DVD. Here's a film that stars James Gandolfini and Susan Sarandon as an unhappily married couple in Queens, with Kate Winslet in bright red hair as his mistress, with the greatest potty-mouth in the history of films; plus Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker and Aida Turturro as their daughters, plus Steve Buscemi as James's working partner as they hammer rivets in high steel on the Triboro Bridge, plus Christopher Walken as Sarandon's cousin, and the great diva of the stage Elaine Stritch as Gandolfini's mother with a harrowing revelation near the end of the film.

But before you think of this as a tragedy, let me tell you that it's a musical - with singing and dancing by everyone to the songs of Tom Jones, Bruce Springsteen, James Brown, Elvis Presley and Englebert Humperdink among others. In fact, Sarandon's leading a church choir in Janis Joplin's "Take Another Little Piece of My Heart" with Eddie Izzard at the organ is worth the price of the DVD alone.

What is this film? It was written and directed by John Turturro, whom you'll remember as the lead in the Coen brothers' masterpiece "Barton Fink." It has choreography for cops, garbage men and just about everyone else in the film to go with the songs, it has a story of sorts - the film begins when Sarandon finds out about her husband's mistress and kicks him out; it has Mandy Moore finding love with their neighbor Bobby Cannavale; and an awful lot more that I absolutely will not spoil for you.

Is the film perfect? No; it falters a bit near the end, but so what? You'll still be singing along with the music, and if you have any kind of rhythm inside, you'll dance as well. Oh, one thing more. Let the end credits roll all the way, because at the very end of the music credits there's a version of the beautiful old folk song "On the Banks of the Ohio" that will make you cry. "Romance and Cigarettes" is a film that's beyond analysis; just enjoy it.