‘Fading Gigolo’: John Turturro as a boy toy who’s hard to enjoy
By Richard Roeper Movie critic May 1, 2014 1:58PM
Florist Fioravante (John Turturro) is pimped out by his friend Murray (Woody Allen) in “Fading Gigolo.” | MILLENNIUM ENTERTAINMENT
‘fading gigolo’ ★★
Fioravante John Turturro
Murray Woody Allen
Avigal Vanessa Paradis
Dovi Liev Schreiber
Millennium Entertainment presents a film written and directed by John Turturro. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated R (for some sexual content, language and brief nudity). Opens Friday at local theaters.
Updated: June 3, 2014 6:02AM
One of the few irritating things about the classic “Seinfeld” TV show was how Jerry, George, Kramer and even Newman routinely dated and hooked up with an astonishing array of gorgeous women through the years. Really? THESE guys?
I was reminded of that Seinfeldian absurdity while watching “Fading Gigolo,” in which Woody Allen literally pimps out John Turturro, whose clients include the likes of Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara.
Given the distasteful notion of the 78-year-old Allen and his steamer trunk of (alleged) baggage playing a creepy old coot who ogles women as potential customers for a friend he’s turned into a sex worker, “Fading Gigolo” isn’t nearly as dreadful and appalling as it could have been.
Writer-director Turturro, one of our most valuable character actors for more than a quarter-century now, casts himself as the lead in this offbeat and sometimes just plain nutso story, which is set in an idealized Brooklyn not all that different from Allen’s romanticized Manhattan from the 1970s and 1980s. (From the opening titles to the score to the framing of opening shots in a number of scenes, it’s clear Turturro is a huge fan of Allen’s work.)
Turturro’s Fioravante is a florist. Allen’s Murray runs a rare bookstore. Neither is exactly killing it financially. Murray’s dermatologist Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone) has confided to Murray she’s contemplating a threesome with her friend Selima (Sofia Vergara) and another man, because of course that’s what beautiful dermatologists do, right?
Murray tells Fioravante, “I thought of you.”
Fioravante’s first encounter with Dr. Parker goes so well, she adds a $500 tip to the tab. Again: We’re talking about Sharon Stone paying John Turturro for sex.
This leads to Murray proposing Fioravante charge all manner of women for his services, with Murray taking a cut for procuring the clients. Murray’s pimp name will be Bongo and Fioravante’s stud name will be Virgil. Sure, OK.
Even an Olympian leap of faith isn’t enough to make us believe women who look like Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara would have any difficulty finding a man to help them out with a threesome. That they’d have to pay a morose florist for his services makes Turturro’s Brooklyn less believable than the world of “Avatar.”
Not that Fioravante isn’t a catch in his own way. Turturro is quite good playing this chivalrous, caring, um, gifted man who also gives good back rub and is a terrific listener to boot.
As for Allen, his voice seems shot. He almost sounds like an old woman doing a Woody Allen impersonation. And all the tics and mannerisms and stammering line deliveries that were so effective 20 and 30 and 40 years ago now seem forced and tired. He’s like an aging troubadour singing old chestnuts and forgetting the lyrics halfway through.
And yet the improbable main thread about the florist-turned-gigolo and his unlikely pimp of a friend isn’t even the most bizarre element to the story.
Vanessa Paradis is Avigal, a Hasidic widow with six children. Fioravante gives her an oil massage and a sympathetic ear. Liev Schreiber gives one of the few bad performances of his career as a shomrim (the word means “watcher” or “guide”) — kind of a Jewish version of a neighborhood watch patrolman. There’s also a kidnapping, and a trial of sorts, and while all that is going on, one starts wondering how things are going with the Fading Gigolo and all those beautiful women who are paying him for sex.
And we haven’t even talked about Murray’s home situation. He lives with a much younger African-American woman (Jill Scott) and he seems to be some sort of father figure to her four boys. Why, he even takes them to have their heads deloused!
There are moments of surprising tenderness in “Fading Gigolo,” and Turturro gives us some beautiful shots of a city he clearly loves. But this film is all over the map, veering from pathos to absurdist comedy to romance to weirdness for the sake of weirdness. I can’t imagine this script looked that good on paper. It’s a project that should have stayed tucked in a drawer or in a computer folder titled, “Failed Premises.”