It feels as if John Turturro has been away for a while. That belief is really a reflection of the fact that in recent years he has appeared in movies that I had no interest in seeing (Transformers, Cars 2, The Taking of Pelham 123) or was unaware of, rather than his actual withdrawal from the fray.
I haven’t seen any of the four films he’s directed previously either, but his latest directorial effort Fading Gigolo, about two New York men in financial difficulties who form a pimp /prostitute partnership, is a sweet comedy with an eclectic supporting cast that’s an indicator of the esteem in which Turturro is held by his profession.
Turturro is Fioravante, a middle-aged florist who isn’t working enough to make ends meet. Woody Allen is his older friend Murray, who is forced to close his decades old family book store. While packing books up at the shop, Murray mentions that a middle-aged woman of his acquaintance told him that she wanted to try a ménage with a female friend, and asked Murray if he knew a man that they could hire to do it with them. Murray tells his friend that he thought of him, and it doesn’t take Fioravante long at all to embrace the notion and begin working as a ho (his word), with Murray acting as his ‘manager’. Business is brisk.
Turturro is uncharacteristically restrained as Fioravante, and Allen is in fine form as Murray. They’re well supported by Sharon Stone as the Doctor who wants the ménage that sets the plot in motion, Sofia Vergara as the other woman in the trois, Vanessa Paradis as a very Orthodox Jewish widow whom Murray connects with Fioravante, and Liev Schrieber as an Orthodox cop who is in love with the widow and thus suspicious as to why she is suddenly journeying to Manhattan with regularity.
The film spends very little time on exposition, getting down to the business of the story in an admirably efficient manner. The first half is more engaging than the second half, as the development of the business is more appealing and funnier than the budding romance that occupies the last hour or so. Fading Gigolo is a charming little film that is entirely inoffensive despite its subject matter.