Fading Gigolo
dir-scr John Turturro
prd Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte, Bill Block, Paul Hanson
with John Turturro, Woody Allen, Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Tonya Pinkins, Bob Balaban, M'Barka Ben Taleb, David Margulies, Max Casella, Aida Turturro
release US 18.Apr.14, UK 23.May.14
13/US QED 1h26
Fading Gigolo
Pimp and ho: Allen and Turturro

paradis stone vergara
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Fading Gigolo Gentle and very easy to watch, this low-key comedy has a snappy script and quietly engaging plot. Although that's about all there is to it, as the deeper themes feel somewhat simplistic, as if writer-director Turturro wanted to leave a smile on viewers' faces without ruffling any feathers. So despite the potentially provocative subject matter, the film is smooth and rather forgettable.

After the changing economy forces him to sell his grandfather's rare-book shop, Murray (Allen) suggests to his impoverished-florist protege Fioravante (Turturro) that he might be able to make a living as an escort. The first client is Murray's dermatologist (Stone), followed by a string of women including the rather too-aggressive Selima (Vergara). But timid widowed rabbi's wife Avigail (Paradis) requires a very different approach, leading to long conversations and a real connection. Meanwhile, jealous community cop Dovi (Schreiber) notices something is up and alerts the chief rabbi.

The witty script feels like something Allen could have written himself, with its hilarious throwaway one-liners and character-centred chaos. It's even accompanied by a jazz-based score. As a director, Turturro keeps things scruffy and real, generating comedy from things like the cultural mash-up between Hasidic Jews, Italians and African-Americans in this Brooklyn neighbourhood. Conversations are jagged and lively, while encounters between Fior and his clients focus more on the emotional undercurrents than the sexy antics.

Allen plays the role like his usual mensch, a bored nice guy who thinks far too much. His scenes with his adoptive black family are funny but a bit off-topic. As an actor, Turturro grounds the film nicely, cleverly letting Fior's initial nervousness dissolve as he finds confidence in his new role. His interaction with each of the women generates a specific kind of chemistry, and each plays out in unusual ways.

While raising some gentle points about the dangers of repressed sexuality and the deep need for intimacy, the film oddly sidesteps the issue of prostitution. This leaves it feeling superficial, even though the characters are nicely rounded. It also allows the movie to drift into a romantic-comedy formula. There's plenty of chemistry, as well as darker emotions under the surface. But Turturro never quite lets things cut loose, playing with transgressive ideas while remaining resolutely traditional, both in the ways of Orthodox Judaism and in the ways of love.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 9.May.14

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