In “Fading Gigolo,” an entertaining and bizarre yet slight picture, Woody Allen plays a pimp to John Turturro’s gigolo. It’s a fresh and brilliantly absurd bit of casting that’s easily the best part of the movie, especially if you’re familiar with Allen’s history of acting on the big screen.
The now 78-year-old writer-director has made a name for himself over the years, playing the same neurotic, insecure, fast-talking fellow again and again, usually in his own movies.
In “Gigolo,” Allen plays more or less the same character. He’s insecure, fast-talking, on Zoloft, seeing an analyst twice a week and pondering mortality and the meaning of existence. However, this time around, Allen — who plays Murray, a bookshop owner who has gone out of business — is gutsier and proactive. He’s the one who suggests that his friend Fiorvante (Turturro, who also wrote and directed the move) become a gigolo for some extra money.
The film is at its best when it focuses on Murray and Fiorvante’s friendship and their adventures in the business that mainly involve two lonely, sex-crazed women who want to have a threesome. There’s something endearing and wonderfully silly about it, and Turturro and Allen play off one another near-perfectly.
It’s when “Fading Gigolo” veers away from the friendship and turns into a love story that it runs into problems. One of Fiorvante’s clients is Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), a strict Hasidic widow. They don’t have sex, but he does massage her back, which is a big no-no in her religion. Nevertheless, it provides her with some pleasure and mends the loneliness she’s been feeling. One of the underlying themes of “Gigolo” seems to be that the gigolo service can provide therapy to lonely women.
After their first meeting the two develop a friendship, and Fiorvante begins to have feelings for her. Unfortunately, since the movie is only 90 minutes long, neither the relationship nor the theme can be effectively explored, and in the end, it looks inferior when compared to the wacky gigolo stuff involving Murray and Fiorvante.
A side plot with Liev Schreiber as Dovi, a neighborhood-watch captain who lives in Avigal’s neighborhood and is also in love with her, simply don’t effloresce into anything resonant.
And, yet, “Fading Gigolo” is still enjoyable, especially as Allen and Turturro navigate the male-prostitute business.
The film also has a jazzy, energetic score by Abraham Laboriel and Bill Maxwell that keeps things moving along nicely, even if the overall movie is rather insignificant.
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