Movie Review: Fading Gigolo


Film: Fading Gigolo
Directed by: John Turturro
Starring: John Turturro, Woody Allen

Two cash-strapped friends toeing the line with their golden years find new income thanks to the world’s oldest profession in John Turturro’s Fading Gigolo.

It all sounds so simple at first. Murray, the aging owner of a bookstore that is currently going out of business, is asked by a female friend whether or not he knew any men she could hire to fulfill a sexual fantasy. Without a second thought, Murray recommends his close acquaintance Fioravante, and a few short conversations later the pair are preparing for their first client meeting. They don’t know it yet, but they will soon learn that love cares very little about the best laid plans of aging men.

The first night goes well for the pair, as do the next few that follow, but over time the lovers and stories begin to take a toll. The mask Fioravante must wear for each client becomes harder to remove with each meeting, even though his other clients are just as wonderful in their own ways. Murray could not care less either as long as his pockets are still lined with the cash of lonely women, but even he cannot help taking an interest in his friend’s struggle with the complicated relationships presented by his new career.

John Turturro writes, directs, and stars in Fading Gigolo, with the role of Murray going to iconic filmmaker Woody Allen. The chemistry the two share as friends leaps from the screen as soon as the story begins, and it crackles with witty remarks and brotherly banter in between Turturro’s numerous appointments, but no conversation ever overstays its welcome. Turturro may be telling a relatively simple story about finding one’s way a bit later in life, but to do so he must translate a rather complex set of relationships in a short amount of time while still keeping things relatively light, and that requires quick scenes with short conversation. It also requires a supporting talent, which Tuturro has in spades with likes of Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, and Liev Schreiber appearing in small-yet-important roles.

Foreign favorite Vanessa Paradis brings a certain spark to the role Avigal, who may be the most intriguing of Fiorvante’s clients. Her husband died in the not-too-distant past, and she has lived every day since his passing in isolated sadness, feeling unworthy of even the slightest affection from another person. It’s the kind of performance that requires vulnerability of the highest degree, but also the conviction to sell the pain of writhing in own’s self made jail. Paradis accomplishes both in ways that make such tasks seem simple, making her all the more alluring as the story carries on.

New York City serves as the film’s background, and its abundant energy pairs well with Turturro’s lightning-fast storytelling. The setup is established in the first five minutes and our characters are free to triumph, fail, love, and explore the world around them, which Turturro litters with beautifully simplistic backgrounds and vibrant households that serve as perfect window dressings for the souls who reside within. Subtlety is key.

The third act of Fading Gigolo offers insight into Jewish community law, and the ways it is enforced – or the way people attempt to enforce it – in the modern age. It’s a genuinely interesting path for the story to follow, and it’s reasonably justified by the actions of the characters, but it can be a bit hard to follow. For a film that wastes no time bouncing from relationship to relationship and scene to scene, this chunk of the story feels uncharacteristically dull. Allen does his best to save things with his signature nervous rambling, but the punchlines are modest at best.

Fading Gigolo is not the first original story to be brought from inception to production by John Turturro, but it feels like his most complete. The characters are as vibrant as the city where they reside, and even though you can predict the majority of the film’s final turns from the middle of the second act it’s still a thoroughly entertaining adventure while it lasts. Woody Allen may in fact steal the show, but I will leave that debate for indie film fans with long rides home.

Score: B+

Written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

Latest posts by James Shotwell (see all)

Both comments and pings are currently closed.
  • Brian Lion

    This started off so well with their very first conversation. I was laughing and loving their chemistry but it gets so choppy along the way. Liev’s little love side-story was awful and felt tacked on as a way to add the Jewish community law theme into it which was also a major distraction and took away from what could have simply been an effective romcom. If it wasn’t for Woody and John’s hilarious conversation’s I probably would have hated this, but it ended up just being okay. It just kind of felt like two different movies mixed up with each other.

  • HaulixJames

    The law thing is SO confusing. Also, Liev’s mutton chops deserved a supporting credit.

  • Brian Lion

    It got really jumbled and kind of took me out of the movie for awhile, and yes, agreed.