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Movie review: Fading Gigolo

Updated on May 22, 2014

Considering the fact that they were both born in the same city and have appeared in so many films set in that city, it's surprising that these proud New Yorkers John Turturro and Woody Allen haven't worked more often together. Turturro appeared in Allen's Hannah and her Sisters, but more in a blink and you'll miss him capacity more than anything else.

Another surprise is that it's actually Turturro's latest crack at directing, which he also stars in alongside Allen. The only thing that isn't a surprise is that the film is set in...New York City.

Two friends are really feeling the crunch of the economy. Murray (Allen) is feeling the pinch so much that he has to close his beloved book shop down. And although Fioravante (Turturro) has two jobs, working part time as a florist and in Murray's shop, it's still not enough to make ends meet.

After a revealing conversation with his dermatologist Dr Parker (Sharon Stone), where she revealed that she would be interested in taking part in a ménage à trois, Murray believes that Fioravante has what it takes to be a gigolo. After a little thought, he thinks Murray might be right.

Soon after, he finds himself in the company of Dr Parker, who fancied a one-on-on with him first to see if there was any chemistry to be had. And sure enough there was. This gives Fioravante the encouragement to continue with this new occupation, not knowing exactly where it will take him emotionally.

This is Turturro's fifth credit as a director and the entire film, which he also wrote, feels like a template from a certain other director – that being Woody Allen. From the opening credits, with its shots of NYC set to a jazz soundtrack, you would swear blind it was a Woody Allen film. However, he may have borrowed Allen's template, but the film still manages to fall short of his co-actor's genius.

It feels odd describing a film about a male prostitute having sex for money as sweet, but that's Turturro's take on his subject matter. There was probably a lot of fun to be had with this kind of material too, particularly as both Stone and Sofia Vergara were both game, as it were, but Turturro loses his way with an unnecessary subplot. This involves the relationship that develops between his character, and a widow of two years Avigal, played by Vanessa Paradis. Sadly Paradis has the emotional range of a wet paper bag and if they ever consider another sequel to the film Mannequin, she should definitely be the first stop for casting.

Turturro himself gives a subtle performance in a role that could have probably done with a little more of everything to pull it off. 78-year-old Allen, as you would hope and expect, steals the show, although even he shows an unhealthy amount of restraint. But then that's probably what you get for being in a not-quite-Woody-Allen film.

Turturro had a bit of a rough time with his last directing gig, 2006's Romance and Cigarettes, with the studio involved not supporting his effort, which led to him distributing it himself. Perhaps this experience knocked his confidence somewhat, as this film nowhere near fulfils its potential, particular when you consider the strong cast (Paradis not withstanding) involved.

Or maybe, just maybe, instead of trying to emulate Allen, he could work on his own vision as a director in the future. Or perhaps he should focus on what he's good at, which is the acting side of things.

Either way, as much as you might want to will this film to work, considering all the talent involved (again, Paradis not withstanding), it's hard not to walk away from it feeling truly disappointed.

3 booms

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