Metascore
55

Mixed or average reviews - based on 22 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 22
  2. Negative: 5 out of 22
  1. 100
    Romance & Cigarettes is the real thing, a film that breaks out of Hollywood jail with audacious originality, startling sexuality, heartfelt emotions, and an anarchic liberty. The actors toss their heads and run their mouths like prisoners let loose to race free.
  2. 90
    It's the most original picture by an American director I've seen this year, and also the most delightful.
  3. 83
    This is a movie that, off-putting as it can be at times, deserves to be seen and heard in a theater, if only to observe the reactions of others to the hilarious gutter talk coming out of Winslet's mouth.
  4. There is more raw vitality pumping through Romance & Cigarettes, John Turturro’s passionate ode to the sensual pulse of life in a working-class neighborhood of Queens, than in a dozen perky high school musicals. This is a movie in which a dirty mind is a good thing. Call it “The Singing Id.” Prudes, be forewarned.
  5. But by the end, when Gandolfini and Sarandon sing their sweet, hesitant little duet, it’s clear Turturro knew where he was going all along.
  6. Attempts something startlingly original by melding light opera with soap opera.
  7. Reviewed by: Louise Kennedy
    75
    A hilarious, touching, and (except for a dip into melodrama near the end) skillful blend of subtle emotional depths and a dazzlingly playful surface.
  8. 75
    It's almost unfair to make the comparison because there are so many fundamental differences, but the closest recent movie to Romance and Cigarettes is "Moulin Rouge." The key likeness is easy to spot: the characters spontaneously break into familiar pop songs.
  9. Enthusiastically smutty and lyrical, the movie attempts to capture the way we unconsciously set the emotional moments of our lives to pop music, turning fits of passion, anger and righteous indignation into elaborate musical numbers in our heads.
  10. If you're game for something different, it's worth a few giggles.
  11. Romance and Cigarettes is lewd and it's lurid and looks to be a lost pop opera, but it has more vitality than anything else out there.
  12. 50
    It has cult item stamped all over it, and fans of (severely) experimental cinema might see it as a revelation. Most others will find that watching this movie is like having your senses beaten with a rake.
  13. Reviewed by: Michelle Orange
    50
    The bleakly bizarre, uneven aesthetic and direction that is fluid but not quite limber succeed and fail from montage to montage, with the principals doing a sort of karaoke tribute to the likes of Joplin and Springsteen.
  14. Reviewed by: Derek Elley
    50
    Chockfull of ideas and with an irreverence that irresistibly recalls late '60s American cinema, thesp John Turturro's third outing in the helmer's chair, Romance & Cigarettes, alternately shines and sputters.
  15. 50
    This singing-along-to-the-radio effect has a dingy charm that honors the blue-collar Italian setting, yet Turturro spoils it by turning the movie into a hip star party, with a cast of indie-acting royalty.
  16. Reviewed by: Gregory Kirschling
    42
    With Walken around, hair up high, of course there are fleeting moments of fascinating weirdness, but even then, you're still moderately embarrassed for the cast.
  17. As the songs pile up and the plot putters along, Romance & Cigarettes wears thin, like a moral for the titular addiction: Sure, there’s the sweet dream of that first drag, but a whole pack’ll do a body bad.
  18. 38
    The trouble is that Turturro's reach considerably exceeds his grasp.
  19. The sad result is a karaoke nightmare. Loud and pointlessly crude, the film takes the disintegration of a dysfunctional working-class family and gives it the song-and-dance treatment.
  20. the movie comes on as a novelty item, meaning it's so full of disparate parts and so unable to approach coherence, it just sits there and burns out.
  21. Besides being inept, it's also pretentious and boring: an ambitious art film gone horribly wrong.
  22. 25
    Sometimes the actors lip-sync, but more often, they're singing along with the original vocal tracks, trying to out-belt Elvis Presley and Bruce Springsteen, like a cadre of enthusiastic shower singers joining in with the radio. The resulting cacophony is generally harsh and sloppy, and the film follows suit.
User Score
6.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 11 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 6
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 6
  3. Negative: 2 out of 6
  1. JimB
    Sep 15, 2009
    10
    The film is a truly a magnificent work of art. I've read dozens of comments and they all seem to drag down the film as 'a good try' or a flop; but they compare the film which you just can't do to this film. It stands alone and is art and good film art. The film is actually very deep and very meaningful. Cigarette addiction is like a demon inside you it can tear you in half trying to rid yourself of the addiction that Full Review »
  2. Ethan
    Feb 15, 2008
    3
    Although this movie features music, it is not necessarily a musical per se. Modern musical... maybe but its not played out to be a classic musical. First of all, when I first saw the cast list, I thought this movie was going to be amazing. Even if Turturro had to raise most of the money himself after not getting picked up for several years I still thought it would be great. However, I was unpleasantly surprised as I watched this horrible pretentious film. Although there were star performances, especially from Kate Winslet. The spectacular acting was not enough to take away from the corniness and convolution of the film. I'm not being naive in criticizing the presence of the music, I'm just saying that I think the movie would have been better if it was purely acting and lacking of the artsy portrayal through the music. A stellar cast and a horrible screenplay... this movie was too good to be true. Full Review »
  3. ChadS.
    Feb 13, 2008
    7
    Two separate but intertwined dialectics propel the narrative in "Romance and Cigarettes", a gently provocative neo-musical that makes us aware of our over-reliance on other people's words and music to express love and love-related matters. The first dialectic vies poetry against the hegemony of popular song, whose dominancy can be traced to poetry's transformation to free-verse during the mid-twentieth century. A lot of people think they know poetry; that a poem is supposed to rhyme, people like Nick(James Gandolfini) and Kitty(the ageless and exquisite Susan Sarandon), who unleash their vulgar couplets of doggerel at each other, when the wife discovers that her husband had been unfaithful. The second dialectic vies popular music against "alternative" music. Engelbert Humperdinck's "A Man Without Love"(a Top-five hit from 1968) plays in Nick's head as he dreams of Tula(Kate Winslet), his mistress. A commercial song is like a greeting card; the sentiment may hail from one's heart, but it's a commodified heart; love as nurture(in the musical number, we see other people using the song as a means to an end), rather than nature(a genuine feeling for another person as expressed in terms of the song's originality and relative obscurity). Alternative music is a commodity, too; make no mistake of this, but Ute Lemper's "Little Water Song" feels more personal, more organic than the Humperdinck smash, which the film illustrates by isolating Tula underwater without any human interference. "Romance and Cigarettes" exquisitely shows us how Tula's love is deeper than Nick's. Although poetry will never again surpass popular song in the hearts and minds of the hoi polloi, Nick gives "The Girl That I Marry" some gravitas by reading Irving Berlin's lyrics as if it WERE poetry, before Kitty accompanies her husband in a cappella style, the song, now personalized by oral recitation, seems more like a sung poem than a commercialized song(the rendering of musical notation is what makes the song a popular art). "Romance and Cigarettes" has a lot to say about how people express love. We don't know how, according to the filmmaker, so we let anybody from George Gershwin("Follow my lead, oh, how I need/ someone to watch over me") to Iggy Pop("I hear her heart beating, loud as thunder/saw the stars crashing) to do it for us. Full Review »