The Jesus makes ’em sing and dance
Director/Writer: John Turturro
Cinematographer: Tom Stern
Starring: James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Christopher Walken, Steve Buscemi, Mary-Louise Parker, Mandy Moore, Aida Turturro, Bobby Cannavale and Elaine Stritch
Studio/Run Time: United Artists / MGM / GreeneStreet Films / Icon Entertainment International, 115 mins.
It can be tough to see the forest for the trees in John Turturro’s Romance and Cigarettes, where an all-star cast stocked with (among others) James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet and Christopher Walken burst into song at the drop of a hat. Without the songs, the movie would be the quiet story of endangered working-class love; with them, it delivers infinite charm and frequent ?aws. “I don’t want your tired gestures of love,” Sarandon’s Kitty tells Gandolfini’s Nick—in the melodramatic mode necessary to sustain moments like when Gandolfini mutters a remembered melody that transforms into choreographed histrionics, or when an underused Eddie Izzard leads a church choir in Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.” Turturro never guides the troupe into reality, but that’s not his task. Moments of repose, like a stricken Gandolfini smoking alone at the kitchen table, give the characters almost enough breath to make their songs believable.