This down-and-dirty musical set in the world of working-class New York tells the story of a husband's journey into infidelity and redemption when he must choose between his seductive mistress and his beleaguered wife.
Nick and Kitty Murder are married middle-aged working class New Yorkers. Kitty catches Nick in an indiscretion when she finds a love poem, extolling the virtues of one specific body part, Nick wrote to his mistress, Tula. The poem is the last straw for Kitty regarding their marriage. Kitty has the support of their three grown daughters - biological or other - her cousin Bo, her pastor and others at the church. They help her with among other things finding and thus dealing with Tula, who she does not know, and looking back at if she made a mistake in choosing Nick over her first love. On the other side, Nick turns to his co-worker Angelo, and a local police officer/ex-military man for advice, which he also gets unsolicited from his tough talking mother. Nick still has Tula, a frank-talking Northern English sex shop clerk, who truly loves Nick's body parts as he loves hers. A little emotional distance may provide Nick and Kitty the best perspective of what their future holds.Written by
When Nick first comes into the house toward the beginning of the movie, his daughter's band is playing outside. When he shuts the front door, the music volume does not change. It should become more muffled with the door shut. See more »
Direction duties on the latest Coen brothers release have been entrusted to an able lieutenant in John Tuturro the scene-stealing actor from O Brother, Where Art Thou, Miller's Crossing and The Big Lebowski. In his hands, Romance and Cigarettes embraces all the staple Coen nuances but is unsettlingly gritty less kitsch, more kitchen sink.
Predictably, the film is just a fraction beyond offbeat. For starters it is a musical original songs and irreverent covers belch incongruously through the pithy dialogue and, while appearing slightly amateurish at times, in the main it is shot with a grimy panache.
The anti-hero is Nick Murder (James Gandolfini) - an overweight, chain-smoking construction worker who is married to Kitty (Susan Sarandon), but having a torrid affair with ballsy English slapper Tula (Kate Winslet). Nick has a trio of daughters (Mandy Moore precocious sex bomb, Mary Louise Parker punk and Aida Tuturro chubby mummy's girl) who pass the time knocking out grungey rock music in their back garden. Plot-wise, that's about your lot - superficially, the movie is about a family coping with adultery, but this is the Coen brothers, so there are always points of interest lurking in the mundane subject matter.
If you're going to have a stab at unconventional drama, it is best to arm yourself with some quality to beef up your oddballs. So Tuturro has called in favours from Steve Buscemi who raises more than a few chortles as Nick's philosophising co-worker, and an elaborately coiffed Christopher Walken who lends the fancy footwork he cultured on that Fatboy Slim video to some of the more surreal dance sequences. Weirder still is Eddie Izzard's new age church choir organist who distributes marital advice to Mrs. Murder in between belting out gospel hits.
A stellar cast then, and one cannot fault the promotional poster, which is so dominated by Winslet's mountainous, and, let's face it, almost certainly air-brushed breasts (no offence Kate) that it has been crudely censored on the London Underground.
The poster hints at Winslet being some sort of femme fatale, but she actually has few scenes to demonstrate anything other than jiggling, pouting and athletic sexual gymnastics. Much of her dialogue (delivered in an ambiguously mid-Pennines northern accent) is absolutely filthy dirty and is, if you close your eyes, uncomfortably evocative of Kathy Staff in Last of the Summer Wine. No wonder I had nightmares afterwards.
Winslet is following in the footsteps of Helena Bonham Carter, shrugging off the corset and the irritating "English rose" label by taking increasingly earthy roles. Serious, cerebral critics (their spectacles steaming up with every cleavage shot) will no doubt call this performance "brave", "challenging" or even "career defining". More realistically, she probably saw it as an ideal chance to prance around in hot pants and spout smut breathlessly into a telephone whilst trying desperately not to giggle. Either way, it's obviously some sort of trend among English actresses watch out for Keira Knightley in the new remake of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
But beneath the silliness beats a mournful heart. The Coens' influence, though undeniably prominent, does not swamp Tuturro's serious side and the last third of the movie sees a significant mood change.
Buscemi, Walken and the quirky choreography take a back seat as Gandolfini and Sarandon muscle their way to the fore. It is an impressively gripping finale to a curiously disjointed film, and one which, on balance, just about tips it towards triumph rather than turkey.
The story is wafer thin and the musical set pieces veer dangerously between hit and miss. Frankly it's a bit of a shambles at times, but no less enjoyable for that.
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