Fading Gigolo is all John Turturro: he wrote the script, directed the film and also plays the lead. In this case the fact that he’s basically the sole driving force behind the movie, is problematic: because of it Fading Gigolo comes dangerously close to being a piece of self-aggrandizement and a way for Turturro to literally act out his sexual fantasies. You see, protagonist Fioravante, a florist/mechanic/plumber, is a man who’s having trouble making ends meet, which is why he goes along with the crazy and unconventional plan of his friend Murray, an equally strapped-for-cash ex-owner of a bookstore. Murray, played by Woody Allen, tells his friend that his dermatologist is willing to pay a thousand dollars so that she and her lady friend can have a ménage à trois with an experienced and skillful lover, and Murray of course thinks that Fioravante is the man for that particular job. After little convincing Turturro’s character agrees to do it and he indeed becomes the film’s titular gigolo.
It’s a silly premise that’s, quite frankly, almost impossible to get past, especially when the movie keeps hitting you over the head with its message that Turturro’s Fioravante is both dynamite in the sack and a gentle soul who heals women through his services. That’s also pretty much all the development Fading Gigolo’s main character gets: Fioravante is what he does and little more than that, because we really aren’t shown any of his characteristics, ideas or feelings. It also doesn’t help that Turturro sleepwalks his way through the film, which is strange given the fact he’s a character actor who usually elevates the movies he’s in. His performance here leaves the film with a hollow center, and it also makes it even harder to buy into the premise that Fioravante is someone who women are immediately drawn towards. Murray doesn’t fare much better: it’s the usual Woody Allen performance that’s fidgety, neurotic and loud, and the character itself is only there to push Fioravante in various directions.
Fortunately Fading Gigolo’s women are more interesting, especially Vanessa Paradis’ Avigal, a widower and single mother who has been without a man for a lot of years now. A scene in which she visits Fioravante for a massage is the film’s best, a beautifully directed, written and acted moment that is surprisingly touching and emotional. Despite the fact that Avigal is still very much thinly drawn, Paradis makes her character a very vulnerable and warm presence, which in turn makes some of her more forced scenes with Turturro work better than they should from a character development and story standpoint. Sharon Stone meanwhile tries to give some depth and credibility to the caricature that is her rich but unfulfilled married woman and she almost manages to do so through some very subtle acting. Unfortunately the script lets her down: her storyline that seems to get interesting at one point ultimately goes nowhere and the movie ends up presenting her as little more than eye candy for its male viewers. Sofía Vergara on the other hand is just there to look smoldering hot from the beginning, wearing sexy lingerie and saying naughty things in her exotic Colombian accent. Meanwhile our hearts bleed for poor John Turturro, who had to write, film and perform the many intimate scenes with these actresses.
To top it off Turturro has also included a storyline that attempts to parody what happens in a secluded Jewish neighborhood, but it misses the pzazz, wit and teeth to carry it off. Instead these scenes are just sort off there until they’re used to add “drama” to another plot line, before the film tries to switch back to ridiculousness, a shift both the script and the direction don’t pull off. Turturro’s reliance on clichés also doesn’t help: it leads to uninspired filler that misses both edge and relatability, and additionally results in a lack of focused storytelling.
Fading Gigolo is a bland, dull and uninteresting ego trip that only works to some extent thanks to the film’s actresses. 3/10