ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES
(Cert. 15) 115 min
It seems that John Turturro has been smoking the same wacky baccy as the late lamented Dennis Potter. The actor’s third stint as writer-director taps into Potter’s patented lip-sync musical strategy pioneered in Pennies From Heaven: otherwise inarticulate characters using popular songs to unleash their emotions. Only given that Turturro hails from 1960s Queens rather than wartime Forest of Dean, his cast mime – and sing and dance - along to the likes of Joplin, Springsteen and, er, Engelbert Humperdinck.
Such flights of fancy perhaps demand thorough grounding and Turturro’s tale of infidelity certainly is authentically blue-collar, with James Gandolfini’s chain-smoking ironworker torn between wife Kitty (Susan Sarandon) and family, and Mancunian tart-with-a-heart Tula (Kate Winslet cutting loose). It’s earthy, gleefully bawdy stuff; Gandolfini’s archetypal Noo Yawker a refreshingly different, slob-like romantic lead, not least when crooning the heartfelt ‘A Man In Love’ on the street, backed by a chorus line of garbage collectors.
High on charm then, but sadly Turturro often misses Potter’s nuanced use of songs. Something like The Singing Detective’s “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” hinted at all kinds of latent mischief, whereas a hip-swivelling Christopher Walken hamming up Tom Jones’s “Delilah” offers strictly superficial pleasures. Close, but no cigar.
* * * (three stars)