A Gigolo Sinks

Fading Gigolo

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Fading Gigolo lumbers, creaks, and drags from beginning to end. The blame for this goes to John Turturro who wrote, directed and made the odd mistakes of casting himself as a male whore and Woody Allen as his pimp. Nothing works.
            The setup: Murray (Woody Allen) has to close his bookstore, needs money, and suggests that his pal, Fiorovante (John Turturro), should earn his money by servicing Murray’s skin doctor, Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone). Dr. Parker in turn wants a three way session with her friend Selima (Sofia Vergara). Along the way Fiorovante loses his real heart, one slow piece at a time, to Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), a lonely Hasidic widow. That’s really all you need to know about premise and plot. Here’s where it goes wrong.
            Given the plotline, which promises humor for a few short minutes, John Turturro – now writing, acting and directing in full Woody Allen mode – decides to add sensitivity to the mood by bringing on the lovely widow Avigal who cries uncontrollably when Fiorovante touches her back. This note of reflection is unexpected and confusing. Is this a serious turn? Yes, and Turturro carries it forward – a quiet, serious love story at odds with its surroundings.
            Turturro as gigolo is another puzzle. A nice, quiet florist, he lets himself be convinced by his friend Murray that the two need money. He accepts Murray’s offer to be his procurer. The problem here is that Turturro as lover is a nice, gentle guy without a whit of the magnetism that might please women like Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara. His developing love for Avigal is a better fit for the gentle florist, but comes across as a misguided reach for poignancy when dropped into the middle of an active sex comedy. The whole midsection of the movie slides into a kind of droning nothingness.
            When the action shifts inexplicably to a Hasidic courtroom it’s not at all clear whether we are supposed to laugh – we don’t – or be interested in the cultural prohibitions that are featured without advancing the plot.
            And then there’s Woody Allen. His bad year in the headlines is hard to dismiss as he asks us to accept the humor of himself as an on screen pimp. Somehow the obsessiveness and repetition that has worked for him for so many years comes across this time as arrogance. This is Allen portraying Allen in a movie written by Turturro imitating Allen’s style while adding serious touches of his own to soften things.
            Sharon Stone and Sofia Fergara do their best to enliven things but seem supremely uncomfortable. After the long, slow ordeal, the final fadeout where Fiorovante retires to be with his true love and Allen hints at taking over the role of gigolo is just embarrassing. It might have worked thirty years ago but, headlines and age considered, this scene will one will sink quietly to the bottom along with the fading gigolo and his pimp.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film title : Fading Gigolo
Distributor : Antidote Films
Word Count : 499
Running Time : 1:30
Rating : R


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