‘Fading Gigolo’ is the new directorial effort from John Turturro, the veteran actor who is famous for his collaborations with the Coen Brothers (‘The Big Lebowski’, ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’). He also happens to be a sometime director-writer.
In this film, Turturro plays a middle-aged man of many trades, Floravente. He is a florist, plumber and electrician.
When his friend Murray (Woody Allen) runs into financial problems, he becomes part of a scheme to help make some money.
Convinced that Floravente's “not afraid to get his hands dirty” attitude can be attractive to the correct target audience, Murray gets Floravente to be a gigolo while he pimps him out.
Business is brisk, but it is not long before things get complicated.
When Floravente is introduced to a Jewish widow, Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), he is caught between love and morality.
John Turturro and Vanessa Paradis star in 'Fading Gigolo'
Yes, this is one of those films where the very concept of it is rather ludicrous and implausible. Yet, Turturro makes it work.
Judging the movie by its title would have given you some ‘Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo’ vibes, but that is not the case here.
The scenario does admittedly lend itself to some vulgar leanings, but never does it go into Rob Schneider territory.
Turturro's casting choice of Allen to play the bumbling Murray is a masterstroke. The fast-talking Allen serves as the perfect foil to Turturro's more subdued demeanour, and watching the bumbling hustler try to drive up business for Floravente is a sheer comedic delight.
Woody Allen (left) is perfectly cast as Murray
Perhaps inspired by Allen’s films, Turturro takes the lead and borrows many of Allen’s signature elements, including the (sometimes out of place) jazz soundtrack, ridiculous situations, smart dialogue and New York-centric identity.
SENSITIVELY PLAYED ROMANCE
Yet, underneath the seemingly low-brow exterior of ‘Fading Gigolo’ is a sensitive interior.
Floravente's romance with Avigal is sweet and tender. And the artful and poignant scenes are almost quite the exact opposite from the rest of the film.
New York is stunningly photographed, and is a welcome throwback to old 1970s movies that were often set in the area.
A pity that ‘Fading Gigolo’ is slightly uneven, with nothing that is exceedingly stellar, and for the most part, it is stuck in between gears.
The scenes of Turturro with his clients, acted playfully by Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara, never jives well enough with his romantic relationship and it can feel like a separate movie at times.
Its middle-aged musings on love, lust and money offer lots of food for thought, even though nothing is really told in full.
If only Allen and Turturro were given more screen time to play off each other, it would have taken this to a different level.
‘Fading Gigolo’ opens in cinemas 15 May 2014