Film review: FADING GIGOLO, from Built For Speed

Fading Gigolo is the Woody Allen film you have when you don’t have a Woody Allen film.  Apart from an appearance by Woody himself, the film features a romanticised upscale New York setting, Jewish humour and cultural insights and jaunty jazz music all built around a quirky yet moving romance.  With its low-budget look and heavily filtered cinematography by Marco Pontecorvo , this could be a Woody Allen film from the late 1990’s or early 2000’s except that it’s written and directed by John Tuturro.

Tuturro plays part-time florist Fioravante whose dwindling finances have left him open to just about any money making scheme.  When his best buddy Murray (Woody Allen) suggests that he become a gigolo to lonely and wealthy New York women he is at first reluctant but soon embraces the role with gusto. With Woody in the unlikely role of his pimp, Fioravante provides his services to a variety of women including the sexually adventurous Dr Parker (Sharon Stone) and her very close friend Selima (Sofia Vergara).  He has no interest in a permanent relationship with his clients until Woody hires him out to a nervous, recently-widowed Hasidic woman named Avigal (Vanessa Paradis).  As his relationship with Avigal tentatively develops, Fioravante becomes the target for militant neighbourhood watch officer Dovi (Liev Schreiber) who also has designs on Avigal.

This very low-key, low-budget film takes a while to establish its tone as it shifts awkwardly between serious drama and screwball comedy.  Some of the characters also seem a little too quirky and unbelievable at first and some of the gags don’t entirely work.  Eventually, though, the film finds a charming balance of comedy, drama and romance.

It’s a bit of a stretch to buy Tuturro as a sex object but he’s such a fine actor he makes Fioravante a credible Don Juan.  As his buddy, Woody is kind of amusing in his typical fumbling way but he could have done with some funnier lines.  Liev Schreiber seems over-the-top at first but eventually strikes the right balance of aggressive intensity and goof ball charm.  In the film’s most sensitive performance Vanessa Paradis gives the film a strong emotional centre.

Fading Gigolo is a small, unusual but slowly enticing film.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Comedy/ drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): John Tuturro.

Release date: 1st May 2014.

Running time:  98 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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