Vinnie, owner of the Brooklyn Cigar Company, is thinking of selling out to a health food store, but is eventually dissuaded by the ghost of baseball star Jackie Robinson (!) and the reminder of the blow that was the defection of the Brooklyn Dodgers team.
An add-on to Smoke, shot in six days after the main feature wrapped, with Paul Auster providing situations for his cast to shoot the breeze with and Wayne Wang pulling in vox pop chats with various Brooklynites, facts and figures about the borough and perhaps a greater sense of place than Smoke, which was more intent on the characters’ arcs.
It’s a unique film that gives Victor Argo, a familiar tough guy face in Abel Ferrara and other NYC pictures, a couple of musical numbers, but there’s a nice thread in which the chatter in the store often seems to turn musical, even to the extent of RuPaul showing up to lead an impromptu party or Harvey Keitel’s love interest (Mel Gorham, glimpsed in Smoke, highlighted here) doing a strip in front of the mirror.
There are sketch-like turns from Michael J. Fox as a slightly cracked (bogus?) researcher asking odd questions of Giancarlo Esposito, Lily Tomlin as a male bum, Madonna as a grumpy singing telegram girl, Roseanne as Argo’s love-hungry neglected wife (more affecting than funny), Mira Sorvino as a passerby who won’t press charges against a 12-year-old pickpocket Keitel has run down (he gives the kid her bag and tells her to run), Mailk Yoba as a rapper/conman who has a different act every time he shows up, Lou Reed talking about cigarettes and his glasses and Jim Jarmusch as a man sharing his last cigarette with the store-keeper who sold him all the others.
As with Smoke, Wang and Auster have succeeded in creating the sort of off-the-cuff homage to the Big Apple that comes along all too rarely.