John Turturro’s Romance & Cigarettes is somewhere between being admirably brave, extremely amusing and horribly embarassing for everyone concerned, including those in the audience. But then you’re always risking pain when you make a musical, and you can’t say that Turturro doesn’t have creative cojones. A story about infidelity, stifled dreams and floundering family values among working-class types in Queens and Brooklyn, Cigarettes is at least something “different.” And it’s extremely comforting that the actors don’t wail and croon on their own…they do it karaoke-style (i.e., on top of established recordings on the soundtrack). They also indulge in some half-assed dancing here and there. Romance & Cigarettes is mostly kind of awful but at other times it verges on the euphoric. There are grace notes aplenty whenever the great Chris Walken is on-screen, although his song-and-dance number isn’t as knock-down cool as his Fat Boy Slim MTV thing. (I have to say that the older he and I get, the creepier the mutual resemblance.) As clumsy, indie-styled, vaguely painful musicals go, this is way, way better than Dan Mirvish’s Open House…but I guess that’s not saying much. James Gandolfini sings entirely on his own for about two or three bars, and I found this truly spellbinding while it lasted. Susan Sarandon delivers a fairly spirited sing-along with Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” and Kate Winslet punches it out pretty well here and there. But if comedy is hard, musicals are an absolute bitch…especially when you’re dealing with people who may love music but don’t have the talent to deliver tunes and dance numbers in a truly first-rate way…even with original soundtracks providing accompaniment. This is a partly sincere but largely satirical movie, and it’s obviously been influenced by the karaoke phenomenon (which is based on the sickening notion that we’re all singing stars waiting to happen, or at least unappreciated for our intensly soulful croonings) as well as efforts like Pennies From Heaven. But this is nothing if not a blue-collar musical, and what this movies mainly proves is that working people should stick to what they know.