Featuring: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Vanessa Paradis, Sharon Stone, Sofía Vergara, Liev Schreiber
Director: John Turturro
Writer: John Turturro
Movie website: fadinggigolo-movie.com/
Australian release date: Thursday, 1 May
Perth venues: Cinema Paradiso, Windsor Cinema
Verdict: Flawed, but entertaining and humorous, and offering an intriguing glimpse into a little-known sector of New York society.
Struggling elderly book seller Murray (Woody Allen) offers to arrange a ménage-a-trois for his embittered, husband-hating dermatologist Dr Parker (Sharon Stone). Seizing the opportunity to make some bucks out of the deal, Murray takes on the role of pimp, convincing reluctant buddy Fioravante (John Turturro), a Manhattan florist with no ties, to moonlight as a gigolo. A test encounter goes well, and Dr Parker subsequently recruits her voluptuous friend Selima (Sofía Vergara) to complete the threesome. Meanwhile, Murray persuades lonely Hasidic widow Avigal (Vanessa Paradis) to consult Fioravante, initially for a massage and chat.
Alas, the lads’ developing business has come to the attention of severely disapproving Hasidic community patrol man Dovi (Liev Schreiber), who has designs on Avigal.
It’s a strange brew, this. It looks for all the world like a Woody Allen flick, with its Manhattan setting, jazzy score, plot, humour, characters, even the credit fonts. And Woody features as one of the leads in typical persona. So what’s the point for director John Turturro, doing Woody by numbers?
Dunno. But who cares when the result is as enjoyable as this?
Woody himself is in his comfort zone, and in fine form. He plays his part with a levity and lightness of touch that’s been missing from his performances for too long, and seems to be having fun (enjoying some downtime away from directing perhaps) – it’s contagious. Ditto Sharon Stone and Sofia Formiga, who serve up their characters with a tasty side of ham. Unlike Woody, they look pretty damned hot in – and out! – of some gorgeous outfits.
Turturro functions as Woody’s foil in their humorous exchanges, and hits the right tone as the physically rather ordinary Lothario whose sex appeal lies in his quiet, sensitive demeanour and women-whispering capacities.
Vanessa Paradis is a standout as the serious, devout Avigal, and brings out the best in Turturro and his character. Their first encounter, when he gently and empathically releases her pent-up hurt through touch, is genuinely romantic and moving, a highpoint of the movie, and paves the way for an opening up in Fioravante as well as his client.
That said, there is not a lot of depth to any of the characters, which are competently (mostly) sketched without being taken further. That ‘mostly’ qualifier refers to a unsignalled and jarring decision of Avigal’s towards the end of the film, in which she forfeits ground she has won in letting go of an oppressed past. It’s infuriating, and a major flaw of both plot and character.
The glimpse we are given into the world of the Othodox Jewish neighbourhood of New York is intriguing and disturbing. Without knowledge of this cultural milieu and the squads of righteous heavies that seek to enforce adherence to its doctrines, it is not possible to determine whether the picture that emerges here is exaggerated. Hopefully, it is!
Woody fans won’t need any encouraging to check this out as a rare instance of his performing in a movie he does not direct. Recommended, also, for anyone for whom the premise appeals. It’s not a great flick, but it’s entertaining and humorous, with some cross-demographic eye candy thrown in. The illuminating lifting of the lid on a little-known and perturbing sector of New York society adds some bottom end to the light tone.
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