John Turturro's latest is an old fashioned sex comedy from a decidedly male perspective
While his acting career has thrown up a number of memorable turns, notably through collaborations with the Coen Brothers (Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski), John Turturro’s own films as director (Mac, Romance and Cigarettes) have tended to over-egg the ethnic charm. His latest, Fading Gigolo, features Turturro as taciturn New York florist Fioravante who finds new opportunities as part of the oldest profession under the guidance of his friend Murray (Woody Allen), the owner of an antiquarian book store.
‘You’re like candy. Top shelf, hard to reach,’ purrs Fioravante’s first client, Murray’s dermatologist Dr Parker (Sharon Stone) as she proposes a ménage with Selima (Sofia Vergara), but soon the lover’s remote nature makes him a hot business proposition as motormouth Murray eagerly sources new clients, including widower Avigal (Vanessa Paradis). A back rub from Fioravante reawakens her sensuality, but also brings the scheme to the notice of neighbourhood-watcher Dovi (Liev Schreiber), whose orthodox Jewish nature takes offence, not least because he has designs on Avigal himself. Having restyled themselves under the names Virgil and Danny Bongo, Fioravante and Murray find that their money-making enterprise has complications they don’t see coming.
Despite the depictions of threesomes and tax-free love, Fading Gigolo is a determinedly old-fashioned entertainment, showcasing a familiar comic turn from Allen and with a strong sense of the local communities of Brooklyn and Williamsburg. That said, Turturro seems content with playing cute with male-female representation, and other than the glossy evocation of the gigolo’s sensual charm, there’s not much meat on the bones in terms of considering gender roles; the women are all primed for sexual awakening at his touch. Like the character he plays, Turturro clearly wants his film to be adored, but Fading Gigolo’s decidedly male fantasy doesn’t offer enough laughs or heart to be more than a passing diversion.
Limited release from Fri 23 May.