Romance & Cigarettes (John Turturro) 51 – Not entirely, or even usually, successful, John Turturro’s Romance & Cigarettes is certainly a movie that’s unafraid to put itself out there. Filled with a lot of dialogue that’s either dirty talk or spoken song lyrics, the movie uses its (slightly incongruous) all-star cast to tell a story of disappointed, working-class aspirations. Turturro’s ambitions do slightly get the better of him. He’s trying to show adulterous behavior as part of a masculine, cyclic pattern and is additionally trying to lament the failed promise of the American dream.
Characters constantly make reference to celebrities from the old Hollywood star system, suggesting that the time they still had hopes has long passed. When the movie turns into a musical, it does so with a purposeful artlessness, as if these people come up short even while fantasizing. Only negligibly a musical-comedy, the movie is unafraid to take itself seriously. It doesn’t quite pack the punch that it thinks it does (it’s definitely, no Dancer in the Dark) but it’s a perfectly respectable failure. Kate Winslet is absolutely fearless here, in her best role in years. As the outright pornographic Tula, she owns every scene that she’s in.