FADING GIGOLO (2013, Antidote Films, 90 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, DTS/Dolby Digital, Cert: 15, Comedy Drama) ∗∗∗∗∗
Starring: John Turturro (Fioravante), Woody Allen (Murray), Vanessa Paradis (Avigal), Liev Schreiber (Dovi), Sharon Stone (Dr. Parker), Sofía Vergara (Selima), Tonya Pinkins (Othella), Aubrey Joseph (Cefus), Dante Hoagland (Coco), Isaiah Clifton (Cyrus), Michael Badalucco (Burly Driver), Aida Turturro (Driver’s Wife), Allen Lewis Rickman (Hasidic Driver).
Producer: Bill Block, Paul Hanson, Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte; Director: John Turturro; Writer: Abraham Laboriel, Bill Maxwell; Director of Photography: Marco Pontecorvo (Color Lab); Music: Ken Thorne; Film Editor: Simona Paggi; Production Designer: Lester Cohen, Art Director: Sarah Frank; Set Decorator: Sheila Bock; Costume Designer: Donna Zakowska.
Turturro wrote and directed this slight comedy drama in which he plays Fioravante, a cash-strapped florist who decides to become a professional gigolo as a way of making money to help his equally cash-strapped friend, Murray (Allen). With Murray acting as his manager, prompted by his dermatologist (Stone) requesting he find her someone willing to participate in a menage-a-trois, Tuturro quickly becomes a word-of-mouth hit. But when he is asked to help Avigal (Paradis) overcome the loneliness she still feels seven years after the death of her husband, he begins to question his choices.
What starts out as a comedy, much akin to some of Allen’s own later efforts, turns into something of a parable in its second half with the tenderness Turturro’s character feels toward Paradis. Allen adopts the shyster screen persona he plays so well, notably in BROADWAY DANNY ROSE. Much of the film’s humour is derived from his enthusiastically entrepreneurial approach to his new role.
But as the focus moves away from Stone’s spoilt loneliness to Paradis’ sad loneliness, the mood of the film turns more toward gentle drama. The shift in tone is undoubtedly deliberate, but betrays a movie that falls between two stools and fails to satisfy either camp completely. Turturro himself downplays his role too much thereby removing all emotion from the character, despite his obvious tender feelings for Paradis.
It is therefore left to Allen to give the movie its life and its most pleasurable moments and whilst FADING GIGOLO will only find a limited audience there is still enough there to make it enjoyable, as well as demonstrate it could have been better.