Movie Review: Aged Woody and ageless Turturro look for laughs in “Fading Gigolo”

Image“Fading Gigolo” is John Turturro’s idea of an old school Woody Allen comedy,
so he wrote Allen into it.
It’s a sentimental farce that presents Turturro as a Brooklyn Jack of All
Trades whose pal (Allen) decides another trade this Jack, named Fioravante,
would be good at is pleasing women.
Allen is Murray, one of Fioravante’s several bosses, as the younger man has
to juggle several service sector jobs to make ends meet in what we call “the gig
Murray runs a rare book shop, and he’s about to give up the ghost.
“Only rare people buy rare books.”
But those rare people figure the grandfatherly Murray can help them find
something a little special — like a third for a planned menage a trois.
“Yeah, I know somebody. But it’ll cost you a thousand bucks!”
Mild-mannered Murray has to talk milder-mannered Fioravante into it. It helps
that Sharon Stone was the woman doing the soliciting.
“Is he clean?” the society trophy wife wants to know. “I’m a little crazed. I
just came from an AIDS benefit.”
And we’re off, with Sofia Vergara as the “trois” in that menage. Fioravante
tackles this new gig with sensitivity and compassion. That’s why Murray figures
there’s no harm in offering him to this lonely Orthodox rabbi’s widow he’s just
Avigal (Vanessa Paradis) is lonely, depressed and, Murray figures, in
desperate need of a man’s touch. But how do you “help” an Orthodox woman?</P>
“I don’t shake hands,” she says. Her culture doesn’t allow her to touch a
man. Her elders watch over her like a hawk. Her Bensonhurst community even has
its own NYPD sanctioned neighborhood watch, and one of those over-zealous
watchers (Liev Schreiber) watches Avigal with love, and a lot of suspicion. Even
passing off Fioravante as a masseuse with hands “that bring magic to the
lonely,” this is going to be tricky.
The ancient Allen gamely makes Murray a doting, baseball-playing father in an
interracial marriage full of kids he has to keep entertained. Thirty years ago,
he’d have made Murray’s “new pimp throws around the cash” scenes very “Broadway
Danny Rose” and funnier.
Bob Balaban is amusing as Murray’s trusted, kvetching lawyer, Vergara and
Stone set off comic sparks. But Turtorro winds up playing the sad straight man
in his own comedy. And he and Paradis play this too somber. Sex scenes are more
explicit than silly. The movie gropes around for a lighter touch.
Moments when the Orthodox religious police nab Murray for an Inquisition are
meant to play like farce, but the often scary Schreiber lends that an alarming
theocratic, fascist feel. Seriously, New York allows “religious police” to
enforce dogma?
But by then “Fading Gigolo” has mimicked its title and faded, a failure in
tone, a romantic comic juggling act where every dropped ball kills another
potential laugh in a movie that desperately needs them.

MPAA Rating: R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Cast: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Liev
Credits: Written and directed by John Turturro. A Millennium release. </P>
Running time: 1:31

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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