As Seen In: Romance & Cigarettes (2005)
John Turtorro's Romance & Cigarettes was one of those films that made you glad Roger Ebert was around; although it received largely mixed reviews, his high profile endorsement correctly identified the film as one freed from convention ("an anarchic liberty," he called it). A story about a long-lasting couple on the rocks (Gandolfini playing opposite Susan Sarandon, and cheating on her with Kate Winslet), Gandolfini was one of the only actors who could have pulled off the film's almost contradictory (and simultaneous) moods of playful, exuberant romance and deeply-felt drama. Despite the novelty of a comedy-musical with A-list actors singing (and those are really their voices), there's something at stake in the relationships between the characters in this film, and we're drawn to their story.
Gandolfini's best moment is the "A Man Without Love" number. Only someone of his gravitas could pull this off: He takes to the streets after his wife discovers his affair, singing along with Engelbert Humperdinck in that netherworld between reality and fantasy that perfectly captures the role music plays in our lives. —DD