DIRECTED BY John Turturro
STARS John Turturro, Woody Allen
John Turturro and Woody Allen in Fading Gigolo. (Photo: Millennium)
In 1980, audiences caught a glimpse of a full-frontal Richard Gere in American Gigolo, in a sequence that doubtless aided his ascension as a Hollywood hunk. John Turturro doesn't go similarly buck naked in Fading Gigolo — heck, he actually showed more skin when he bared his butt in one of those awful Transformers sequels — but it's not entirely unreasonable to suggest that this often wheezy film could create a comparable stir among the blue-hairs who elect to check it out at their local art-house or mini-multiplex.
The sensitive performance by Turturro, who also wrote and directed the picture, is one of the selling points; the other is Woody Allen, who's only in actor mode for this project. The two enjoy a nice chemistry, with Turturro cast as Fioravante and Allen playing his pal Murray. Both of them are struggling financially, so when Murray is asked by his doctor (Sharon Stone) if he knows anyone who would be up for sleeping with her for cash, he immediately thinks of his pal Fioravante, whose earthy demeanor is signaled in shorthand by the fact that he works in a flower shop. Fioravante is hesitant about embarking on this new profession, but he finally relents, and soon he's not only servicing the good doctor but also her wealthy friend (Sofia Vergara) and scores of other women. Fioravante and Murray become so accustomed to their gigs as gigolo and pimp that they even come up with new names for themselves (Fioravante goes with the decidedly unsexy "Virgil Howard" while Murray amusingly adopts the unlikely moniker "Dan Bongo").
As long as it focuses on the odd-couple pairing of Turturro and Allen, Fading Gigolo provides some modest amusement (and speaking of The Odd Couple, it's not hard to imagine this premise being pushed in an earlier decade, with Walter Matthau in the Allen role and Jack Lemmon in Turturro's part). But the second half turns its attention to a warmed-over love story between Fioravante and a rabbi's widow (Vanessa Paradis) — that, along with a thin role for Liev Schreiber as the head of the neighborhood watch as well as a poorly realized sequence set at an apparently jerry-built Hasidic court, means that this initially promising picture finds itself fading well before the end.