sun 20/09/2020

Fading Gigolo | reviews, news & interviews

Fading Gigolo

Fading Gigolo

Turturro's fifth feature frees up a star-studded cast for whimsy and melancholia

Woody Allen (left) brings the laughs, but writer/director John Turturro is in chargePhoto: Moviestore/REX

Favourite of the Coens, John Turturro’s fifth turn at the helm is a surprisingly lively, enjoyable fable of male prostitution. After the shuttering of the New York City bookstore where he worked for Murray (Woody Allen), Fioravante (Turturro) is talked into being the male meat in a female sandwich between Selima (Sofia Vergara) and Murray's dermatologist Dr Parker (Sharon Stone). Meanwhile, Fioravante doesn't fall for either of his lady-pals.

Favourite of the Coens, John Turturro’s fifth turn at the helm is a surprisingly lively, enjoyable fable of male prostitution. After the shuttering of the New York City bookstore where he worked for Murray (Woody Allen), Fioravante (Turturro) is talked into being the male meat in a female sandwich between Selima (Sofia Vergara) and Murray's dermatologist Dr Parker (Sharon Stone). Meanwhile, Fioravante doesn't fall for either of his lady-pals. Instead, he finds himself drawn to untouchable Hasidic widow Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), she herself shuttered since her husband's death. To add to the problems, sexy Hasidic hunk Liev Schreiber is the neighbourhood cop obsessed with Avigal.  

With that premise, Fading Gigolo (which was both written and directed by Turturro) sounds a bit iffy – male prostitution, the same old homely guys/beautiful women thing. But back in the '90s, Turturro’s debut Mac was made of memorable performances and Fading Gigolo aces that. While the characters here are not necessarily rounded or realistic (although fact is always much less believable than fiction), this quirky, pacy tale is unavoidably pleasurable.

Who can resist talented actors running free in their roles without chewing the scenery?

There are reasons why some actors are stars. Both Stone and Vergara seem pleased in their roles as smart, sexy women happily renting a man together. Yet we can’t take our eyes off Woody: even as an elder stateman, he brings the laughs. Even for those who dislike him, Allen electrifies the screen with focus and energy – his willingness to make life’s absurdities eternally amusing is his greatest gift. Turturro did write the role for Woody, in a deal bartered by their hairdresser. But this is not a Woody Allen film, as Turturro said in a recent interview with Gaby Wood. If Allen read and advised on the script, Turturro was still in charge: “Woody doesn’t have an army coat on, and he doesn’t have khaki pants. That’s a bigger accomplishment than anybody knows. He’s got burgundy pants, and a black suit jacket: Come on! That’s not easy.”

Of all, Avigal is the most unbelievable character: alluring, cloistered and meek yet allowed to get a massage from a man unchaperoned. Turturro keeps his own close-ups down to an accepted leading-man amount. If the story is utopic in others areas – Murray’s homelife is wonderful, Fioravante is never really tormented, all the women are beautiful – that dazzling idealism is tamped down by a persistent drizzle of melancholy. In a film about the aging process and how it affects love and sex this is right and proper, though. The laughs are followed by brief moments of pondering a slower future.

Some may see a Spike Lee-tang in Turturro’s work: as the actor worked with Lee early on, that could be the case, what with his use of music and street filming. Either way, Fading Gigolo goes beyond expectations in pure pleasure. Just when you think its description on paper promises nothing but queasy cosiness, along comes this zingy gem. It’s not intellectual, pompous, pretentious or perfect. It is, however, a lot of fun. Who can resist talented actors running free in their roles without chewing the scenery? For this, Fading Gigolo deserves an audience.

Overleaf, watch the trailer for Fading Gigolo

It’s not intellectual, pompous, pretentious or perfect. It is, however, a lot of fun

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters