Walken After Midnight: Romance & Cigarettes steps out of tradition.

John Turturro has appeared in such arty European films as The Luzhin Defense (upscale chess drama), The Truce (downbeat Holocaust drama), and The Man Who Cried (who knows). Left to his own devices, however, he prefers the blue-collar wisdom of his native Queens. Turturro’s third film as a director returns to the earthy world of 1992’s Mac, his autobiographical debut, but with a twist: Romance & Cigarettes is a musical. This intentionally unglamorous romp boasts a big-name cast, a brash disregard for mainstream expectations, and one paramount insight: Real men like pussy. If the word makes you recoil, this movie isn’t for you. In fact, it’s not for many people, but connoisseurs of mad self-indulgence will find much to enjoy. The story centers on an everyday family, headed by ironworker Nick Murder (James Gandolfini). His mutinous daughters (Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, and Aida Turturro) rehearse their riot-grrrlish band in the backyard, but that’s nothing compared to the racket made by Nick’s wife, Kitty (Susan Sarandon), when she finds a bawdy love letter her husband has written to his mistress, Tula (Kate Winslet). Nick exits, singing Engelbert Humperdinck’s “A Man Without Love,” and soon the neighborhood’s working men join in. That’s the first of many song-and-dance routines in the picture, which also includes a few old-movie parodies. The idea is one that Dennis Potter (The Singing Detective) had first: that ordinary lives are nourished by inner fantasies derived from popular movies and songs. Potter’s best work had a stronger framework than Turturro’s film, whose mundane plot leads to an arbitrarily morbid coda. But the point is the wild performances—especially Winslet’s as a redheaded, cockney-accented British vamp—and balmy musical numbers, mostly lip-synced or sung along with the recordings. Sarandon emotes to Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” the daughters bash out their own version of “I Want Candy,” Christopher Walken undulates to Tom Jones’ “Delilah,” and Eddie Izzard leads a gospel choir through the Moonglows’ “Ten Commandments of Love.” Each tune is more evidence that there’s no place like the home in your mind.

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