When his bookstore goes out of business, Murray (Woody Allen) proposes a new business venture to his former employee Fioravante (John Turturro), in which Fioravante would become a professional Don Juan. Initially reluctant, Fioravante accepts the hand that fate has thrown him; after all, he’s broke, semi-unemployed and has a ready-made manager on standby.
Fading Gigolo is not the first time that John Turturro has stepped behind the camera as director, and not his first foray into the world of writing for the screen either. It is, however, one of the rare times that Woody Allen acts in a film not directed by him, and it is also one of the most remarkably pointless films of recent times.
There is a certain joy to be taken from the chemistry between Allen and Turturro in the film, but neither actor is particularly challenged by his role; Turturro plays a likeable everyman, and Allen reprises his lifelong role as a fast talking, slightly neurotic, over the top character. The rest of the cast is made up of Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Vanessa Paradis and Liev Schreiber. Schreiber does well enough with a tricky role, although he does not have a lot of time on screen, while Paradis shines through in a still yet engaging turn as an orthodox Jewish widow, who finds herself the centre of Fioravante’s attention.
Where the film utterly fails, however, is in the story. The pace picks up rather early, and rattles along well. Fioravante’s new career unexpectedly takes off, but he finds himself drawn to Avigal (Paradis), as they become intimate, but never physically. This is where the story quickly ties itself in knots; in trying to be a culture clash comedy, the film treads an entirely predictable route – without actually being funny – then abruptly u-turns, without any of the characters actually learning anything, or changing as people. Well, except for one, but that’s a supporting character at best. As well as this, there is an elaborate scene where Murray is put on trial in front of Jewish elders, that makes no sense, and for all of its effort, the film is not funny. Did I mention that before? I did? Well, it’s not.
Fading Gigolo may have seemed like a good idea on paper – and there are some nicely executed shots and sequences – but overall, the film feels familiar, predictable and ultimately, a bit of a damp squib. Still, it’s better than Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Turturro’s last blockbuster outing – so there’s that.