John Turturro’s fifth film as writer and director, “Fading Gigolo,” has a warm glow, as if it had been shot through honey, and tells a sweet story. But to slightly adapt what my friend Jeff countered when I offered, “But he’s nice,” in defense of a mutual acquaintance: “Just nice indicates a personality stripped of other more interesting attributes”–sweet, too, is often unsatisfying.
Old friends Fiorvante (Turturro) and Murray (Woody Allen), the type of middle class New Yorkers that the city is abandoning (and will be poorer without), are struggling financially. Murray is closing his rare book store and Fiorvante, although he has an elegant eye for flowers and arrangements, is fearful his florist shop will also be shuttered soon.
But Murray has a plan to ease their economic instability. Relaying his lovely derma- tologist’s confidence that she and a friend are seeking a man for a ménage à trios, he convinces an initially skeptical Fiorvante that he has what it takes. And a ho is born.
Percentage wise, there are more working girls on the screen than on the street and invariably the fictional prostitutes are gorgeous and on display. The johns are average, if not sweaty slobs. (Major exception: Richard Gere.)
In “Fading Gigolo” the looks roles have been reversed. The clients are gorgeous: Sharon Stone, beautiful, of course, and she’s got gams, which figure prominently; Sofia Vergara, working her high-end lingerie and Christian Louboutin sky high heels; and Vanessa Paradis, miscast as a widowed Hassidic Rebbetzin (even less believable as an Orthodox Jew than Renée Zellweger). But Turturro (undeniably a great actor, appealing in many ways), and here kind, loyal, affectionate–and less undressed than the women–is boyfriend material. But if I were hiring my taste would run to Viggo (not “Virgil”–as Fiorvante rechristens himself when he assumes his new persona), Benicio, Olivier M., Daniel, or as a colleague volunteered, Mads.
At the screening I attended, a famous (male) TV critic sitting in my row, laughed with delight at a character’s mishearing of acidic/Hassidic. And I’ve read men, including the perennially funny ex-Ethicist (he’s still a good person, but no longer writes the column for the Times), Randy Cohen, in a description of his newest “Person, Place, Thing” podcast, a conversation with John Turturro, call the film very funny. I respond readily to humor (Randy once referred to me as “an easy laugh”) but while the film has warmth (notably provided by amazing actress Tonya Pickins in a small role) to go with its sweetness, I noticed few real laughs. Maybe “Fading Gigolo” is a boy thing.
“Fading Gigolo” will open in theaters on Friday, April 18.