Romance & Cigarettes (Sous-titres français)
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Emmy Award(r)-winner James Gandolfini (All The King's Men, TV's "The Sopranos"), Oscar(r)-winner Susan Sarandon (Shall We Dance, Stepmom), Oscar(r)-nominated Kate Winslet (Titanic, Finding Neverland), Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Reservoir Dogs), Mandy Moore (Chasing Liberty, The Princess Diaries), Emmy Award(r)-winner Bobby Cannavale (Snakes on a Plane, The Bone Collector), Golden Globe Award(r)-winner Mary-Louise Parker (Red Dragon, Fried Green Tomatoes), Aida Turturro (Deep Blue Sea, Sleepers), Emmy Award(r)-winner Eddie Izzard (My Super-Ex Girlfriend, Ocean's Twelve) and Oscar(r)-winner Christopher Walken (Click, The Wedding Crashers) lead an all-star cast in this down-and-dirty modern day musical set which tells the story of one man's journey into infidelity and redemption. Nick (Gandolfini) is an ironworker who builds and repairs bridges. He's married to Kitty (Sarandon), a dressmaker, a strong and gentle woman with whom he has three daughters and must struggle to cope with her husband'
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`Romance & Cigarettes' follows blue collar worker Nick Murder as he juggles his relationships with the women in his life. His marriage to Kitty is falling apart, mostly due to his relationship with vixen Tula. His daughters Baby, Constance and Rosebud despise him for what he has done to their mother and his girlfriend Tula is challenging him in ways he didn't know he could be challenged. And then there is his mother who will never forgive him for becoming his father. While Nick is sorting out his life Kitty is trying to find herself. She visits the church of which she's all but forsaken. She contemplates handling Tula on her own, for good. She battles her feelings about her husband as well as those about her dead ex-lover.
`Romance & Cigarettes' plays out like a musical meets a black romantic comedy meets a crime noir meets a family drama. The `musical' elements are open song where characters either sing along or lip synch to pop ballads; where musical numbers are performed in the middle of the street complete with choreographed dancing. The minute Gandolfini walks out the front door singing `A Man Without Love' you know you're in for a treat. It's definitely `out there' but it all fits together in such an oddly fulfilling way that you can't help but embrace it.
The performances are stellar, truly stellar. James Gandolfini almost reprises his role of Tony Soprano when you really think about it. Sure, he's not a mobster but his family life (the cheating, the sick form of loyalty to his mate, the sympathetic failure) is pretty similar. He nails it, but that's to be expected. Susan Sarandon also nails her part as the eccentric down trodden mother. Her performance is similar to her role in `Igby Goes Down' (another SOLID piece of work). Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker and Aida Turturro all deliver fine performances as the three daughters, Parker standing out due to her scene stealing antics. Christopher Walken is hilarious as Cousin Bo and Elaine Stritch has a noteworthy cameo as Nick's mother.
Standout here though is none other than Kate Winslet. Her performance as the dirty mouthed Tula is outstanding. The things that come out of her mouth are so horrible yet she says them with such calm and ease you can't help but believe every word. How she made it through her dialog without gagging on her own laughter is beyond me. How she was passed over for an Oscar nomination is also beyond me.
`Romance & Cigarettes' is one of those films that stays with you whether you like it or not. It's imaginative and original and completely ridiculous in a manor that makes you want to be a part of this crazy world somehow. With stellar performances that elevate the screenplay and tender moments that add layers of emotional depth to the chaos on screen, `Romance & Cigarettes' is definitely worth the ride.
To give you a flavor of the movie, it starts off with Constance Murder (Mary-Louise Parker) walking up to her unfaithful father, Nick (James Gandolfini, 'The Sopranos') who's asleep on the couch in their modest NY suburban home, snoring away like a slow moving saw. Her arms are akimbo and her face sports disapproval, yet she seems to show compassion as the mounting evidence comes in for yet another mistress and another affair, which is written all over her face. She walks up to him and puts her lit cigarette between his toes. She walks out of the room, and after a pregnant pause, we hear him yell out in pain.
His daughters are on mom, (Susan Sarandon) Katie Murder's side, so she's really wronged in a one-sided way. She wears her anguish on her sleeve and in song (as she reconnects with her local Catholic church choir.) One of the best scenes is when they wiggle and grind through a steamy rendition of "Take Another Piece of My Heart". (You know, the one Janis Joplin made so famous). One of her daughters has all the looks she may have lost, is in a rock band, and is steady with her dancer boyfriend (Duck-tail flamboyant Bobby Cannavale) who also co-fronts the band.
On his way to work, Nick sings along with the soundtrack, so his voice absurdly blends in Karaoke style with Engelbert Humperdinck's "A Man Without Love" in a lavishly choreographed neighborhood scene. The juxtaposition of fantasy with mundane reality must be a Hollywood trend, for I kept thinking of `Across the Universe' here or `Enchanted' and `Hairspray'. Yet, it would be unfair for me to keep those connections too strong here, for I felt like I was watching something uniquely sublime and daffy.
There isn't really much of plot, per se, except for the ramifications of his British adulterous interest (Kate Winslet), but the character study is enough to keep the pages turning. Nick is able to confide with fellow hardhat Angelo (Steve Buscemi) whose lecherous confessions on the job are both grim and practical, and Katie relies on her quirky cousin (Christopher Walken) to boost her spirits and keep her sense of purpose in life.
Much like the aforementioned films, `Romance and Cigarettes' uses musical comedy to rise about the dingy skylines and heart rending realities with some fun fantasies that both escape one's lot in life and process the wounds. I'd say after all is said and done, this is a fun and colorful film that is a real pleasure to watch.
(Happy belated Valentine's Day!)