Film Review: Romance and Cigarettes

by Pat Johnson

As I walked out of the theater, I was told by some fellow audience members that I would have liked the movie better if I had a more cynical view on relationships. While I struggled with that, I also struggled to get my head around this film's concept and execution. Since very few people have even heard of this film, let me give you some context. John Turturro writes and directs James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Mandy Moore, Eddie Izzard, Mary-Louise Parker, and Christopher Walken. Wow huh? How is it that you didn't hear of all these people in a movie? Well, because it's the story of an iron worker cheating on his wife, but the narrative flips between traditional storytelling, musical numbers (with the actors singing old songs), and imaginary visions of how the characters are feeling. For example, after fighting with his wife, Gandolfini imagines himself tied to a swing set, being whipped by his daughters who are dressed as Roman soldiers. It's sort of Clockwork Orange meets Moulin Rouge, but aimed at over-the-hill cynics. The reason you never heard of it is because no studio knew how to market it, so Turturro released it independently. At worst the film is complete nonsense and at best it is the essence of cinematic innovation and daring. I didn't love it, but it doesn't deserve to be a footnote on IMD either.