Starring: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone
With his book shop having to close down, Murray (Allen) is completely broke but after his married dermatologist (Stone) tells him in casual conversation that her and another female friend (Sofía Vergara) want a threesome, she asks Murray if he knows anyone that she can pay who does ‘that sort of thing’. Despite the fact he has never done ‘that sort of thing’, Murray says that his friend Fioravante (Turturro) does and so Murray begins to essentially pimp out Fioravante to horny New York housewives, with the two splitting the money. However when Fioravante starts to ‘heal’ a Jewish widow (Vanessa Paradis), he not only gets more emotionally involved than he should, the two of them run into trouble with a local Jewish community and the local neighbourhood patrol officer (Liev Schreiber).
Yes it does sound like a strange plot, and there is definitely a feeling that it feels like when watching Fading Gigolo that they made it up when they went along. There is admittedly a proper beginning/middle/end with the main arc being the relationship between Fioravante and Paradis’ widow, which is also in my view the film’s weakest part in what is essentially a series of vignettes pieced together. That is not a bad thing as the chemistry between Allen and Turturro make every scene they share very enjoyable. The dialogue and plot in general do perhaps in isolation seem quite misogynistic, yet Allen and Turturro give warmth and engagement to both their characters and the slightly hodgepodge story. Woody Allen is funnier than he has been in a very long time in a role perfectly suited to him, and Turturro effortlessly oozes charisma and charm. While Sharon Stone and Sofía Vergara do most definitely have good fun in their roles respectively, and Paradis expresses the right level of mournful insecurity in the film’s intended emotional core. While Liev Schreiber is very watchable and makes his character surprisingly sympathetic.
In what is his fifth feature as director, Turturro has most definitely become an accomplished director with a film that most certainly feels genuinely cinematic. Some incredibly cinematic and angled shots capture Brooklyn very well, enhanced by Marco Pontecorvo’s golden brown cinematography that makes every single scene feel like it has happening in the late evening sunshine. However, for the film’s more dialogue heavy scenes Turturro is happy let the camera remain static and the actors do the work. There also is a very effective visual motive involving hands; each character seems to predominantly use their hands in their life. Yet it is hard to avoid thinking that this great attention to detail with the visuals is wasted by the admittedly vacuous and maybe slightly self indulgent presentation of the narrative.
As writer and director, Turturro seems to certainly enjoy himself, and the makes for a very watchable experience in the film’s genuinely hilarious lighter moments, but the scenes that are intended to deliver more emotional punch just cannot quite deliver. However, the narrative developments do surprise and avoid cliché, which is very much to Turturro’s credit.
Fading Gigolo is one of those films that is very watchable from start to finish, it is very well shot and often hilarious thanks to the superb chemistry between Turturro and Allen, however beyond that its slightly haphazard narrative means it is very lacking in any substance and ultimately, quite forgettable. Effortlessly watchable, but instantly forgettable: this is the very definition of a film that works perfectly as a one-time watch.