Fading Gigolo (2014)

Fading GigoloWhen his bookshop closes Murray Schwartz (Woody Allen) decides to reinvent himself as a pimp, at first renting good friend and professional florist Fioravante (John Turturro) out to his dermatologist (Sharon Stone) for the sum of $1000. To begin with Fioravante is reluctant, but he eventually comes around to the idea, encouraging Murray to increase his clientele and making something of a name for himself as a generous lover. However, when the two set their sights on Avigal (Venessa Paradis), a Jewish widow with six children and enough emotional baggage for the entire family, they arouse the suspicion of her local neighbourhood watchman and self-sworn protector Dovi (Liev Schreiber). Fioravante soon falls for his new client, and is before long struggling to perform his duties as a gigolo.

Despite sounding for all the world like a sex comedy (Schwartz, no longer a bookseller, rechristens himself Bongo) Finding Gigolo is almost the exact opposite: a surprisingly intimate drama that is spectacularly low on laughs. Turturro, who also wrote and directed the film, has cast himself as a near silent and unusually sensitive man’s man. Whereas the women in the film are used to being courted by pretty boys and insecure businessmen he provides an altogether more masculine and old-fashioned alternative. Unfortunately, while not without a certain credibility (and though undoubtedly the heart and soul of the movie), Turtorro’s not the most compelling lead.

Enter Allen, an essentially extraneous character who never fails to catch your eye as he fidgets and fusses from the wings. Having propagated the idea of prostitution, Schwartz really has no role left to serve once Fioravante gets going, yet clings on through a number of increasingly laboured and invasive subplots. Though ultimately redundant, however, these scenes at least offer a reprieve from the forced earnestness of the rest of the film. Though never funny, Allen is at least amusing as he defaults to his usual schtick. As he liaises with clients, mentors his godchildren and is later put on trial by some sort of Hasidic order the film seems to be bending over backwards to keep him onscreen.

Though strangely inert, there is something undeniably quite arresting about Turturro’s appointments with the various women, none more so than Paradis’ Avigal. As far as performances go, Paradis’ is comfortably the worst in the film, or at least the most stilted, and yet there is something about the actress that is nonetheless striking. She’s a real marvel, and though you’re never exactly sure who is less comfortable — Avigal or Paradis — she is utterly captivating to watch. Stone and Vergara are strong presences too, although they aren’t given enough screentime to fully develop their characters. It’s a real shame, as their time together is the closest the film comes to having any memorable set pieces.

A grating soundtrack, harsh lighting and a pervasive turn from Allen detract from a quite unremarkable but otherwise quietly absorbing tale of emotional awakening. Like Allen and Turturro say of Fioravante, Fading Gigolo may not be particularly beautiful but it does have a certain sex appeal.

2-stars

 

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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