Directed by John Turturro
Woody Allen is both a blessing and a trap. You don’t expect to put him into your film and retain any trace of identity. And you sure as hell don’t expect that if you give him the leading part. He does that old neurotic trick, says a good joke, sucks up all the space from the screen and makes Fading Gigolo a second-rate Woody Allen pastiche.
And yet it is Woody Allen who saves this film from being an all-out bloodless disaster. He is alive. He breathes. He says stuff. He even has two or three decent (if vaguely familiar) jokes. Rest of the cast (and this can also apply to the film itself) is generally solipsistic. Sharon Stone doesn’t really do anything and Vanessa Paradis is duller than death.
John Turturro (who’s directing his fifth film here) is better, but only marginally. He plays a quiet New York florist, Fioravante, who is encouraged by Woody Allen’s character (failed used bookstore owner turned unlikely gigolo) to participate in a ménage à trois involving the latter’s dermatologist Dr. Parker. The gigolo trade that then ensues is an intriguing Allen-esque idea, one that – by all means – has lots of potential. And there are sparks here, bits and pieces of a well-written script that should but doesn’t.
Because I honestly do not care. Half the time Fading Gigolo feels numb and fails to engage. And when it does, it’s not through the virtues of a strong screenplay or great acting or Turturro’s exciting filmmaking. It’s because Woody Allen appears within the frame and shakes things up by simply doing his thing. No magic involved.
Fading Gigolo feels like a very shaky, uncertain film that is only slightly above average. It doesn’t quite realise what to do, how to balance seriousness with humour, vulgarity with charm. It doesn’t know how to be convincing. Whereas John Turturro is the one person who should know how to be convincing. After all: when you do Jesus, you do the Jesus.