Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: John Turturro
Stars: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Vanessa Paradis, Sofia Vergara, Liev
Schreiber, Tonya Pinkins, Michael Badalucco, Aida Turturro, Allen Lewis Rickman
the likes of the Coen brothers or Spike Lee, or even occasionally appears in low brow big budget
blockbusters such as Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise. As a director though he is a little
harder to pigeonhole. His films behind the camera include the little seen lowkey family drama Mac
and the the down and dirty, gritty ensemble piece Romance And Cigarettes.
His fifth film as a director is the romantic comedy Fading Gigolo, which seems like a homage to
the films of Woody Allen. The film has been lovingly shot on the streets of New York by
cinematographer Marco Pontecorvo (Letters To Juliet, etc), who uses warm golden tones, and it
looks and feels like one of Allen’s more breezy comedies. The jazz flavoured soundtrack is also
reminiscent of Allen’s films.
Turturro plays Fioravante, a sensitive, middle aged florist who also works as a clerk in the antique
bookstore run by his best friend Murray (played by none other than Allen himself). But when the
bookstore is forced to close, and money becomes tight, Murray hits on an unusal idea. Prompted
by a discussion with his dermatologist, Murray suggests that Fioravante becomes a gigolo for
some wealthy but bored professional Manhattan women. At first Fioravante is a little uncertain,
but he soon warms to the task of pleasuring women for money. And when they are played by the
likes of a still sexy Sharon Stone and Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara, who can blame him?
But then complications set in when Fioravante begins to fall for the beautiful Avigal (Vanessa
Paradis), a widow who is still mourning her late husband. Fioravante begins to draw her out of her
reclusive shell. But Avigal is being watched by Dovi (Liev Schreiber), the overprotective local
Hassidic neighbourhood cop who is obsessed with her, and this brings some dramatic tension to
Fading Gigolo deals with broad themes of sex, love, money and the pursuit of happiness, and
Turturro’s script is laced with some nice one liners and a quirky sense of humour. He has also
created a couple of wonderful characters in the odd couple pairing of Murray and Fioravante, who
use aliases as they go about their business. However, Turturro’s pacing is a little uneven, and the
moral ambiguity of Fioravante’s decision to become a male gigolo is a little troubling.
And the film also takes us inside the insular, tight knit and secretive world of New York’s orthodox
Jewish community. Some understanding of their archaic rituals, and especially their attitude
towards women and widows, would bring some clarity to the second half when Murray finds
himself pursued by some Othrodox Jews who suspect him of being up to no good and Fioravante
is put on trial.
Turturro is not your conventional romantic leading man, and at times he seems a little
uncomfortable here. But it is Allen who is the best thing about Fading Gigolo and he brings a
comic energy and vibrancy to the material. It is rare to find Allen appear in a film for another
director, but the role of Murray fits him like a glove and it seems as though Turturro wrote it
especially for him. Allen seems to be enjoying himself here. Although he is essentially playing a
variation of his usual uptight, neurotic and selfserving persona, he delivers one of his best and
most likeable performances for quite some time.