As he shuts up shop for the last time, New York book store owner Murray Schwartz (Woody Allen) convinces his part time (and broke) florist friend Fioravante (John Turturro) that there is money to be made as a gigolo - and Murray manages him. It's an idea he picks up in passing from his dermatologist Dr Parker (Sharon Stone) who wonders aloud about having a menage with her friend Selima (Sofia Vergara). The plan takes shape but soon loses it ...
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In what is either a tribute or a sop to Woody Allen, the film begins in true Allen style, with glorious jazz taking us into the opening scene - and filling the rest of the film with the sort of tunes Allen himself wood have chosen (maybe he did). The soundtrack is the film's crowning achievement, and the sense of riffing on a theme is also relevant - but not perhaps as intended. It comes in the form of Allen's character, Murray, living with Othella (Tonya Pinkins) a younger woman and the fact that she is an African American with a small brood of kids can't hide the Allen-esqueness of it.
It's Turturro's film ... but it feels like an 'after Woody Allen' film, his simple flower arranger character with the crumpled face assuming sexual magnetism that gorgeous women such as Sharon Stone's Dr Parker and Sofia Vergara's sex-on-legs Selima willingly pay him big bucks for an hour or two. I have always liked Turturro - as an actor; it's a stretch even for him, though.
That aside, the comedic potential of the Allen-Turturro pairing is an impotent one, with Allen doing his nervy schtick while Turturro is stoic to the point of being deadpan. The contrast would work well if it had something to work with.
The screenplay toys with us as we meet the demure widow, Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), who is gradually drawn out of her shell and her home by a sales spiel from Murray that defies probability. Never mind that, she becomes the pivotal source of dramatic tension and a change of mood from comedy to romance, Avigal being the object of attraction for local Jewish community ranger Dovi (Liev Schreiber), who resents Murray's pimping in his neighbourhood.
Like the plans of its protagonists, the plans of the filmmakers never quite make it to fulfilment, although there is fun to be had with Stone and Vergara - if for the wrong reasons. There is also a gentle whiplashing of the ancient Orthodox Jewish traditions regarding women - widows in particular here. But the screenplay is erratic as is the tone, with Turturro's calm, still performance working against it.
Review by Louise Keller:
The idea has potential and the cast that John Turturro has assembled is delicious, yet Fading Gigolo falls flat, the sum of its parts being less than its individual ingredients. Sex, love and money are the elements of this comic pursuit of happiness and unsurprisingly, nothing turns out as planned. At the heart of the film is the unlikely relationship between Turturro's Fioravante and Woody Allen, the latter playing Murray, a retired New York bookshop owner, whose off the wall idea to promote his cash-strapped friend as a stud unexpectedly finds legs. Allen is his neurotic self, while Turturro plays the strong silent type; the idea of the juxtaposition of a bored, rich wife (Sharon Stone) looking for kicks with that of an orthodox Jewish widow (Vanessa Paradis) deprived of sensuality, is more effective than the actual execution.
When Murray recounts his conversation with his dermatologist (Stone) wanting to indulge in a ménage a trois, it sounds like a tall tale - until he drops the bombshell that he believes his pal (Turturro) has the right intuitions and attributes to deliver what women want. There appears to be something missing between this initial idea and the execution of Fioravante as a slick, practised gigolo, especially as Fioravante, who spends his days nurturing flowers or clearing sewers and other odd jobs, is devoid of confidence and only gets talked into the idea following the promise of a big pay packet. But the scene when Dr Parker (Stone) 'tries' him out on his own in her plush New York apartment declaring 'this is so high school' plays out beautifully. The addition of the luscious Selima (Sofía Vergara), whose curves are stated to be an anatomical miracle, goes one step further.
The story strand involving Avigal (Paradis), the suppressed Chasidic widow from Brooklyn gets a little bogged down - not only, but also by its Jewish-ness. The fact that Murray convinces Avigal to climb the stairs to Fioravante's apartment for a massage is intriguing and we can understand her response to his touch. However, the progression of this relationship requires too great a leap of faith. Liev Schreiber plays a Chasidic neighbourhood patrol officer who has long been obsessed by the lovely Avigal.
I found it difficult to buy the premise and one of the film's flaws is that Fioravante's skill in understanding women is explained rather than shown. The side-plot in which the orthodox Jewish community chases Murray investigating whether he is participating in money laundering or organ trafficking is overdone. The performances are enjoyable however and the film has more novelty value than anything else. The fluid jazz score is a highlight.
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FADING GIGOLO (M)
CAST: John Torturro, Woody Allen, Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schriber, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergera, Bob Balaban
PRODUCER: Bill Block, Paul Hanson, Jeffery Kusama-Hinte
DIRECTOR: John Torturro
SCRIPT: John Torturro
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Marco Pontecorvo
EDITOR: Simona Paggi
MUSIC: Abraham Laboriel, Bill Maxwell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lester Cohen
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 1, 2014