By Glenn Dunks
April 29, 2014
It’s telling that John Turturro cast Woody Allen in his latest directorial effort given that the director/writer/star’s Fading Gigolo is desperate to be ‘a Woody Allen film’ for a new generation. Blithely crude in execution if not spirit, this odd-shaped romantic comedy aims for sweet, but only gets there occasionally. Peppered with a cast of memorable names and a frank portrayal of modern sexuality, it’s actually Allen who sends Fading Gigolo off course with his typically nebbish, joke-spouting performance adding little and distracting from its stronger elements.
Fiorvante (Turturro) is a part-time florist and friend of Murray (Allen) who both live on New York City’s Upper West Side. After an interaction with his doctor (Sharon Stone) and her lover (Sofia Vergara), Murray decides to pimp out his friend for money, splitting the revenue and eventually starting up a successful business. Just when the two start making money, Fiorvante gets too close to a Jewish widow (Vanessa Paradis) and her suitor (Liev Schreiber), with a romance blooming that has bad consequences for all.
Did I say Fading Gigolo was a comedy? It’s mostly up to Allen and Modern Family’s Vergara to liven the material when the annoying jazzy score isn’t attempting to lighten the mood. Nor does it help Turturro that he wrote a rather baffling side-plot involving Murray’s African-American girlfriend (Tonya Pinkins) and an unorthodox rendering of Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn that lacks laughs and insight. Where the picture does shine, however, is in Turturro’s interactions with the women: Stone and Paradis especially. It’s actually nice to see Sharon Stone on screen these days as sexy and powerful as ever, but with a somewhat wavering sensibility that gives her character more bite than was perhaps on the page.
Showing off New York City in plentiful golden hues, it is certainly a handsomely made movie and one that feels very much like a cousin to Turturro’s earlier feature, Romance & Cigarettes. Sadly, it’s not very engaging for most of its brief 90-minute runtime, instead preferring to coast on the personalities of its actors rather than delve into their characters’ minds.
Fading Gigolo arrives in Australian cinemas May 1, 2014.