In “Fading Gigolo,” Murray (Woody Allen) and Fioravante (John Turturro) close up their indie bookstore. As they pack, Murray mentions he saw his dermatologist — and she’s interested in a threesome. Murray says he instantly thought of Fior.
“Are you on drugs,” he says. And Murray: “Apart from my Zoloft, no.”
“Gigolo” wastes no time, and neither does Murray. He says he’s willing to hook them up, and he’d like a cut of the profit.
Turturro as Fior is lanky with wiry hair. Allen is showing his age, and he’s got a shaky out-of-his-element facade, and the combination of the two brings the comedy of an aging wannabe pimp and his budding, middle-aged prostitute. The most charming interactions of “Gigolo” are in these moments as Murray tries to make this happen.
The two are at Fior’s part-time job, and Fior says he’s not a beautiful man. Mid-shot to Turturro, and I’m kinda shaking my head. I’ve known him from roles in “O, Brother Where Art Thou,” “Barton Fink” and “Do the Right Thing,” and there’s little to any room in these films to see Turturro as a sex symbol.
Murray rationalizes: a man who works with his hands and the earth is desirable. “You’re disgusting in a very positive way.” With Allen’s delivery, I laughed out loud.
Soon after, Murray gets a call from the dermatologist Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), and they set up “the meet.” And Sharon Stone is gorgeous, as usual.
I admit, I didn’t know how this would work, but the tables are turned when Fior shows up. They’re in Dr. Parker’s high-rise apartment, and she’s dressed to the nines. Fior has a silent ease about him. Nothing’s changed in his character, but this works for him, and the deception that he’s a high-class escort adds a little humor as Dr. Parker nervously fiddles with glasses.
As the gigolo business evolves, things take a strange and kind of boring turn when Murray tries to enlist Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), an Orthodox Jewish woman as a possible customer. This was a turn I didn’t understand, and I was kinda grossed out with Murray for making it.
“Fading Gigolo” does a good job with the wit, music and sets. To be honest, it felt like a Woody Allen movie, but it’s written and directed by John Turturro.
What I liked the most was watching my perception of Turturro change as the movie progressed. What I always considered as his permanent awkwardness shifted into something else. There’s a scene when Fior meets Selima (Sofia Vergara) for their first appointment. Previously, she states the very specific type of man she wants: strong, tall and not too pretty.
When they meet, Fior meets all the requirements of this beauty, and she says “show me what you can do.” They join for a tango. But a literal one — they’re dancing.
Watching Turturro glide around, I saw a certain type of suave air to him. And maybe that was his whole point in making this movie? Or maybe it was a commentary on love? Or Orthodox Judaism?
In any case, I was mostly engaged with in “Fading Gigolo.” I may have ruined it in thinking Turturro as a filmmaker would mirror his co-star.
It’s (kinda) worth a watch, at least for the first half. After that, it’s up to you.
Starring: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara
Screenwriter/director: John Turturro
Rating: R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Available: Amazon Prime and iTunes (to rent), Netflix Instant
Melinda Lavine is features editor at the DNT, reach her at mlavine@duluthnews.
com or (218) 723-5346, read her blog at reeltalk.areavoices.com.