Review: Fading Gigolo
PLOT: Fioravante is a down-on-his luck, part-time florist and recently laid off clerk at a closed bookstore. With a little nudge from his ex-boss Murray, the middle-aged man finds himself entertaining wealthy women for money.
There are a handful of relationships that are explored in the new film FADING GIGOLO yet not all of them work. Written, directed and starring John Turturro, the story revolves around a casual suggestion about having a ménage à trois. The improbable beginning features Woody Allen and Turturro as two friends closing up their bookstore for good and discussing a possible way to make a few extra bucks. All this happens before the opening credits are finished. The two women looking to have a three-way are Sharon Stone and Sofía Vergara and they need a man like Turturro to make it all happen. If you are going to do a vanity project, I can’t say I blame him for this one.
Turturro plays the mild-mannered, gentlemanly Fioravante who worked for Murray, a used to be book store owner who is closing the store down. It seems that while at his dermatologists office, Murray had a conversation with Dr. Parker (Stone) where she mentioned that she and her incredibly hot girlfriend (Vergara) are looking to get kinky with a third party. Lucky for the ladies, he has an incredibly charming friend named Fioravante who would be a good fit for their sexual exploits. Soon, this all-too-nice man finds himself working as a gigolo and meeting a few interesting women along the way. It follows this awkwardly executed story around and eventually builds up to one of the most uninspired cinematic ménage à trois’ ever captured on film.
The casual nature of FADING GIGOLO is not quite as terrible as it seems, yet the quirky cuteness of it all wears thin. That is until Fioravante meets a demure and devout Jewish widow named Avigal (Vanessa Paradis). The French actress is especially enduring in the moments she shares with Turturro. These are by far the most thoughtful and beautifully realized scenes in the film. While her role is only slightly better written than both Vergara and Stone, she gives a very eloquent portrayal of a woman searching for her place. It’s a shame we couldn’t have seen more of her complex relations with not only Fioravante, but the terrific Liev Schreiber as a local community officer as well.
The problem begins early on as we are expected to believe in the quirky nature of Allen and Turturro’s friendship. Their conversations look to engage in the ideas of sex and the constant fear of aging, yet they at times feel like just words tossed back and forth. Allen once again plays a neurotic older man who is more than a little clueless and a lot deceitful, but in a likable sort of way. Turturro is not surprisingly very good here, yet it isn’t until he meets the lovely Paradis where we see the stuff that he is made of. Had this been the focus of FADING GIGOLO, it would have been a far more inviting tale.
Playing this film as a sort of sex comedy, the filmmaker does have the ability to find a few charming moments. Yet this affair all too often falls for cheap shots, especially one scene involving a bland sexual encounter that cuts to a man on the street shooting off a water hose and it's just bad. There is so much here that is smarter than this that when it goes for the lowbrow humor, it tends to feel out of place and more than a little unimaginative.
Musically speaking, the constant jazz and classic tunes are terribly overused, especially when you have to struggle to hear a conversation thanks to trumpets and such saturating the score. I love music in films yet much like the story and characters, FADING GIGOLO is a mixed bag of sound and ideas that occasionally finds a sense of balance. It isn’t until nearly halfway through where I found myself curious, and on occasion, touched by the story. Not without its charms, this modern day Don Juan tale and his complicated relations fails to live up to promise of what could have been.