Romance & Cigarettes (15)
Time Out says
Mon Mar 20 2006John Turturro’s first film as a writer-director, ‘Mac’, was an impressive realist drama inspired by his construction-worker father. His second, ‘Illuminata’, was a more ambitious if slightly clumsy affair celebrating theatrical life. This, his third effort in the hyphenate role, is in many ways a blend of the two, in that it’s a blue-collar musical comedy-drama. So yes, it’s sometimes a little shaggy – the pacing, particularly, stumbles towards the end – but it’s also Turturro’s best yet, and one of the most personal, deliciously fresh American films of recent years.
The theatricality, complete with characters breaking into dance and voicing their emotions loud and clear in tolerably tacky old tunes like ‘A Man without Love’ and ‘Delilah’ is appropriate, even though the protagonist, Nick (James Gandolfini), is a New York ironworker who shares his unremarkable suburban home with wife Kitty (Susan Sarandon) and three grown-up daughters. Appropriate because for Nick life has become all about performance: for one thing, when Kitty finds he’s having an affair and his family turn against him, there’s the matter of whether he’ll be able to act his way out of trouble; for another, if he’s to hang on to improbable paramour Tula (a physically voracious, foul-mouthed lass from the north of England played by an almost unrecognisable Kate Winslet), he needs to keep his end up in all sorts of other ways. It’s not as if he’s getting much help from his profoundly unreconstructed fellow-worker Angelo (Steve Buscemi); Kitty, on the other hand, can count among her cohorts family (Christopher Walken), friends (Barbara Sukowa), even a Holy Father (Eddie Izzard).
The story’s the stuff of domestic melodrama, then, save that it’s played for laughs as well as emotional effect. Turturro pulls off a very tricky balancing act, by trusting in the expertise of his performers and by infusing the whole film with energy and affection. Even the very plentiful in-your-face bawdiness is liberating in the Chaucerian/ Rabelaisian tradition rather than sniggeringly, timidly puerile as it so often is in the movies. Indeed, it’s all part of a fond tribute to the vitality and passionate emotional integrity of a certain kind of working-class experience, rooted in the knowledge that goodness, real goodness, can be found in the unlikeliest creatures.
Author: Geoff Andrew
Fri Mar 24, 2006
Cast and crew
Elaine Stritch, Adam LeFevre, David Thornton, Barbara Sukowa, Eddie Izzard, Mary-Louise Parker, Aida Turturro, James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Kumar Pallana, Christopher Walken, Mandy Moore, Bobby Cannavale