Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, ...
Credit: K.C. Bailey

When a movie starring two Oscar winners, Tony Soprano, and Kate Winslet premieres at the 2005 Venice Film Festival, but then takes more than two years simply to appear in a dozen or so American theaters, eyebrows will be raised. Written and directed by consummate character actor John Turturro and boasting a pedigreed cast, this mutt of a musical is a bewildering spectacle indeed. In his joint commentary with his 14-year-old son, Turturro sums up the story of a New York schmo (Gandolfini) who’s cheating on his wife (Susan Sarandon) with a fiery harlot (Winslet) as ”Charles Bukowski writes The Honeymooners — with music,” but even that music, like the entire premise, is more gimmick than soul. Yes, it’s always fun to see wacky Christopher Walken dance. Of course it’s titillating to hear Winslet’s potty mouth. But the endless parade of miscast players (Mary-Louise Parker, Aida Turturro, Eddie Izzard, Mandy Moore) and schlocky choreographed dance numbers make Romance a real horror show. Which is not to be confused with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. EXTRAS In a sit-down intro, Turturro describes the passion project as ”an itch I needed to scratch” going all the way back to the late 1980s. But he never touches on the last three years, when the movie lingered in limbo. Sarandon and Winslet literally phone-in their comments for the ”Making a Homemade Musical” doc, with Sarandon’s apt description of one particular dream sequence capturing the essence of the entire film: ”I think all of us thought we’d stepped into some ’50s B-movie.” Turturro learned at the Coens’ feet (the brothers executive produced), but Romance & Cigarettes has more of the feel — but none of the flavor — of a John Waters film. D

Romance & Cigarettes
  • Movie
  • 115 minutes