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Review: Fading Gigolo

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“Am I your friend?”

“You’re more than a friend!”

“And you want to turn me into a ho?”

Coming out just as all the is-he-isn’t-he sex fiend shenanigans are dying down is a film co-starring Woody Allen as a lewd amateur pimp. Oh my, yes please. Written, directed by and starring John Turturro(otherwise known as ‘that knobhead from the Transformers films’ or Jesus Quintana: bowling god semicolon pervert) as the titular ho, Fading Gigolo might be the most ‘Woody Allen’ film not directed by Woody Allen ever.

From the aged NYC opening sequence and therein style, to the inane subject matter of the ensemble’s meandering conversations to – oh, look, it’s Woody Allen – Fading Gigolo is a wonderful hit-and-miss comedy that fans of The Glasses will love.

Turturro stars as Fioravante, an average mid-life New Yorker Joe who lives by the menial paycheck. Unfortunately Fioravante’s boss and friend, Murray (Allen) is about to close shop because customers at his rare books store are as rare as his books. Luckily though, Murray’s got a Sharon Stone-shaped friend who out-of-the-blue has a hankering for a ménage a trois and is willing to pay for it, and Murray knows a not-unattractive guy who needs a bonk and a bit of green. Obviously, it’s not long before Murray is a full-time pimp (with business cards!) and Fioravante is his energetic bottom bitch.

Contextually – what with the tiresome soft jazz, juxtaposing characters and charmingly awkward conversations, as well as the above-mentioned tells – it is hard to distinguish Turturro’s style with this film from Allen’s own. A quick flick at Turturro’s previous directorial efforts on YouTube will tell you that Allen-ism is not prevalent in his career, but with Woody so prominent in the film, the apparent mimicry is admirable for its authentic feel and qualitative consistency.

Throughout, Turturro’s fledgling prostitute is a joy. As Murray states whilst trying to convince Fioravante (who later adopts the Professional name Virgil Howard) to become a gigolo, Turturro is “disgusting in a very positive way.” He’s got just the right amount of ungainly charisma for the self-written role. As he weighs the morality of his actions with the money that pays his rent he consults Murray in a series of tropey conversations that move the film along smoothly. Woody Allen’s Murray is, well, Woody Allen. Humourously lecherous and chatty in the most banal of ways, Allen’s sex-agent is fun, if a little weary after a while.

Amongst the extensive list of beautiful ladies who procure Fioravante’s services, the two most prominent are Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara. Of the pair Stone gets the most juicy material as a headstrong businesswoman caving in to adulterous desires. Vergara, however, whilst foxy and entertaining, is once again just Sofia Vergara. Like Woody Allen or Arnold Schwarzeneggar she will always be just herself, her ‘unique’ voice and acting chops never-changing but still fine. Lastly, the less said about Liev Schreiber’s Jew-cop the best: that joke of a character is a guilty laugh a minute.

Fading Gigolo breaks no boundaries in story-telling or film-making. Essentially, the script is just a reasonably sized checklist of tropes, feels and one-laugh jokes that wring the gigolo plot device for all of the mileage it can get and the aesthetics are nothing more than comfy and easy to follow. It’s a casual, pseudo-Woody Allen film; a watch-one-time jumble of improbable characters and situations that you will love whilst it’s happening but then inevitably forget forever once you’ve left the cinema.

@sjbowron

Fading Gigolo is in UK cinemas from 23rd May.

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