FADING GIGOLO (director/writer: John Turturro; cinematographer: Marco Pontecorvo; editor: Simona Paggi; music: Abraham Laboriel/Bill Maxwell; cast: John Turturro (Fioravante), Woody Allen (Murray Schwartz), Vanessa Paradis (Avigal), Liev Schreiber (Dovi), Sharon Stone (Dr. Parker), Sofia Vergara (Selima), Bob Balaban (Sol), M’Barka Ben Taleb (Mimou, Tunisian singer), Jade Wilson (Cee Cee); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte/Bill Block/Paul Hanson; Millennium Entertainment; 2013)
“This is Woody at his kvetching worst.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Brooklyn-born writer-director -actor John Turturro(“Illuminata”/”Mac”/”Passione”) wrote the screenplay especially for Brooklyn-born Woody Allen, who takes a rare turn acting in a film he doesn’t direct. It’s a midlife crisis experience film, about an aging man fantasizing if he can still attract the opposite sex. It has Woody in the unlikely role of a pimp, while the usually awkward character actor Turturro is in the unlikely role of a stud who gets a thousand dollars for his Don Juan services.
The premise comes about when going-out-business sleazy rare books dealer Murray Schwartz’s (Woody Allen) married dermatologist, Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), tells her patient she would cough up a thousand dollars to an experienced male prostitute for a tumble in the hay and would doubles the price for a ménage à trois with her curvy best friend Selima (Sofia Vergara). The strapped for cash Murray talks a reluctant Fioravante (John Turturro), his friend, an out of work plumber and a part-time book store and flower store employee, into being the gigolo for the hedonistic rich doctor after Fioravante questions his friend’s attempt to make him a ho.
When Murray takes one of his black live-in partner’s young boys to have Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), the recent widow of an Orthodox rabbi, with six children, to take the lice out of his hair, the pushy pimp somehow introduces Avigal to Fioravante. They meet for massages and a cautious non-sexual relationship is developing between the two unhappy souls. But when the Williamsburg Hasidic security man, Dovi (Liev), who is nursing a long-time love for Avigal, suspiciously follows her into Manhattan in his Hasidic patrol car, he sniffs out trouble and in a jealous rage brings secular Jew Murray in front of the neighborhood Hasidic head rabbis to be reprimanded for introducing the cloistered Avigal to a man who might not even be Jewish.
The romantic comedy provides more bleakness than comedy, and it gets even worse when it tries to say something poignant about the ways of rigid Hasidic Jews and people who are lonely. Shallow might be the least disparaging thing one can say about such a disjointed oddball film, one that could make you squirm in the way it debased all its characters. Admittedly it could have been crasser, but because its screenplay was so lacking in scope it passed muster as merely a limited comedy venture that never should have been attempted. This is Woody at his kvetching worst.
REVIEWED ON 5/17/2014 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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