John Turturro might not be the first face to appear when one tries to imagine the ideal characteristics of a gigolo, but in his latest film that’s exactly his profession.
Fading Gigolo is a touching romantic comedy that tells the story of Fioravante (Tuturro), a book-loving flower arranger in New York with steadily growing bills to pay, who is persuaded by his long-time friend Murray (Woody Allen) into a ménage-à-trois with Murray’s attention-starved dermatologist Dr Parker (Sharon Stone) and her sexy Hispanic friend Selima (Sofia Vergama). The big tip received for a job well done prompts the two men in to making the escort business their own, and Murray goes in search of clients for his unlikely “ho”. One of these newly enrolled regulars surprisingly enough turns out to be lonely widow Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), who after two years is still in mourning for her deceased Hasidic rabbi husband. As her sessions with Fioravante continue, she gradually comes out of her constricting orthodox shell and he begins to fall in love with her. This in turn however sparks the jealousy of Dovi (Liev Schreiber), an Hasidic policeman who has pined for her since they were small.
Turturro (The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Quiz Show) has both written and directed the film, which features elegantly tailored performances from all. Woody Allen is his usual neurotic and talkative self, here with an added dash of loveable, grandfatherly warmth. He plays the husband of a coloured mother of four young children, in need of income to support his adopted family after the closure of his bookstore. Stone is also fun as the playful, vengeful wife of a rock climber, and Turturro is charming as the movie’s perhaps least dynamic character Fioravante. Paradis, in her first English language role, has the piece’s most endearing part as soft-spoken, serious Avigal.
Far from being a saucy sex romp, the film is relatively modest in mood – thanks in part to Marco Pontecorvo’s sepia-toned cinematography, and the story’s leisurely pace, peppered with warm, lightweight comedy. The love story between Fioravante and Avigal is the film’s heart and strongest point. In the end, audiences hoping for a cheekier, Allen-style sex comedy may be disappointed by the soft, sweet Fading Gigolo, but it should delight those of us in search of a funny, heartfelt romantic film for adults.
Fading Gigolo is released nationwide on 23rd May 2014. Watch the trailer for Fading Gigolo here: