I hardly need to mention what a huge Woody Allen fan I am. Equally, I admire John Turturro and his body of work which is so often at its best when he works alongside Joel and Ethan Coen. With their on-screen nihilistic traits and their off-screen New York backgrounds, it makes perfect sense for Allen and Turturro to collaborate. As it turns out, they bring out the best in one another. The joyful presence of both actors, along with the great characters they portray in Fading Gigolo, remain the only two redeemable elements in this car crash of a comedy. Allen and Turturro give great, and somewhat uncharacteristic, performances whilst the rest of the film crumbles around them. When I come out of the cinema after watching a bad film, I tend to think it through in chronological order, trying to list off all of the problems. Coming out of Fading Gigolo it occurred to me: this film was structureless. It appears that, sadly, John Turturro does not direct or write as well as he acts. Fading Gigolo‘s narrative is as flimsy as it is unconvincing.
There is no evidence of a beginning, middle or end in Fading Gigolo. The film opens with Murray (Allen) preparing to close his family bookshop but it is only moments until Murray is presenting close friend Fioravante (Turturro) with an unusual proposition. As both ageing men face financial struggle, Fioravante agrees to sleep with lonely women for money, pimped out by Murray. The duo quickly become “Dan Bongo & Virgil Howard” with very little resistance on Fioravante’s behalf. The film leaps into an absurd story which doesn’t really go anywhere or provide anything of interest. As well as combining the beauty of both Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara the film also manages to lower Stone to Vergara’s weaker level of acting. It is sad to see Stone, who will always be Ginger in “Casino” to me, lend her talents to something so insincere and frivolous. As well as trying to convince you that such women would ever pay such men thousands of dollars for sexual activities, the film also fails to conjure any humour from just how bizarre this situation is.
Meanwhile, Fading Gigolo also attempts to tie in a love story which falls flat on its face. Thanks to Vanessa Paradis’ relentlessly irritating voice and facial expressions this storyline feels completely under-thought and over-acted. Fading Gigolo isn’t without the odd perk. It gives us Woody Allen, in his frail body but with the energy of a thirty-year-old. He is unusually relaxed and has great chemistry with Turturro. The film is at its funniest outside of the weak plot. Watching the duo niggle and discuss their unconventional business venture makes for pleasant viewing whilst witnessing the forced jokes and stiff shot transitions certainly doesn’t. Allen is on great form in a film I am glad he didn’t direct or write. He brings hilarity to an otherwise stagnant script and his absence is felt in over half the film’s scenes. Allen and Turturro are charming to watch interact but it’s not enough to detract from just how flawed Fading Gigolo is. I would have ended this review with a swift sentence stating how much of a disaster this movie was from start to finish, but I can’t – because the film has no start or finish. It just begins, continues and finally flops to a pathetic close.
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