Fading Gigolo (United States, 2013)

May 02, 2014
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Fading Gigolo Poster

Everyone knows John Turturro as an actor. After starting out his career during the early 1980s, he became a regular in movies made by Spike Lee and The Coen Brothers. He has worked for Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Robert Redford. And, when he needed to pad his bank account, he wasn't above taking a paycheck to slum for Michael Bay. What many don't know about Turturro is that he has also written and directed a handful of films. Low-key, low-budget affairs, these haven't been blessed with widespread distribution and include the critically lauded, deeply personal Mac and the outrageous musical Romance and Cigarettes. Turturro's latest is Fading Gigolo, a quirky romantic comedy that suffers from a rare cinematic malady: it's too short.

Fading Gigolo's sparse 90-minute running length may be its most apparent drawback. Relationships are left half-developed and there are times when it seems as if whole sequences have been cut. It's almost as if we're watching the Cliffs Notes version of the story rather than the whole thing. There are tangents that lack a payoff although, to be fair, these may be intended simply to add color to the proceedings rather than because they're intended to tie back into the main narrative.

For Fiorvanate (Turturro), it's a classic case of "too much month at the end of the money." Every time he looks as his checkbook, the balance is lower. For his best friend, Murray (Woody Allen), the situation is more dire - he finds himself unemployed after his small bookstore goes out of business. But Murray, never short of ideas, thinks he knows a way to generate some income. His dermatologist, Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), confides to him that she and her friend, the curvaceous Selima (Sofia Vergara), are interested in a threesome - if only they can find "the right man." Murray immediately thinks this could be a job for Fiorvante… if the women are willing to meet his price. Despite some initial hesitation, Fiorvante adapts quickly to this new profession, servicing every client Murray procures. However, there comes a time when Fiorvante encounters a stumbling block. Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), an orthodox Jew who has been widowed for two years, comes to Fiorvante seeking nothing more than a means to relieve her loneliness. The connection between them is immediate and powerful and, as doomed as any lasting relationship might be, their interaction alters the trajectories of both of their lives.

The comedy in Fading Gigolo is understated and offbeat - pretty much what one might expect for a man who has spent numerous hours working with the Coens and who has recruited Woody Allen for an acting-only part (although it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Allen had a hand in writing his own dialogue - too many of the lines are precise). The most delicious scene is the one between Fiorvante and Sofia Vergara' s Selima. On the other hand, the romance between Avigal and Fiorvante never takes flight. It has a perfunctory feel and, like the character portrayed by Liev Schreiber, feels almost incidental to the story. This is supposed to be a major event in the main character's life but it isn't sufficiently developed to seem like more than just another vignette.

Like most movies that deal with prostitution in one form or another, this one romanticizes it. It doesn't go all the way into Pretty Woman territory but it's clear this is better viewed as a fairy tale than a representation of reality. The film's look and lighting provide an out-of-time feel. Although it is technically set in the 2010s, these events would be at home in Woody Allen's New York of the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, it's fair to say that Turturro has worked hard to recreate Allen's vision of the city and having the writer/director on-hand to play a version of a character with which he is intimately familiar emphasizes this.

Fading Gigolo is a slight movie but enjoyable nevertheless even if its brevity hints at something that, given more time to breathe, could have been a richer, more rewarding experience.

Fading Gigolo (United States, 2013)

Director: John Turturro
Cast: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara
Screenplay: John Turturro
Cinematography: Marco Pontecorvo
Music: Abraham Laboriel, Bill Maxwell
U.S. Distributor: Millennium Entertainment
Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2013-04-25
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Content, Brief Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1