Fading Gigolo (2014) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
20Aug/140

Fading Gigolo (2014)

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Fioravante is a quiet and talented man with a kind smile who has gone to Murray's book store for years.  When Murray's threatens to close, an unlikely source of income finds its way to the duo by means of a high-class escort chain that has use for Fioravante's multilingual sensitivity.  Fading Gigolo is written and directed by John Turturro, and stars Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, and Sofia Vergara.

I believe you're trying to seduce me SelmiaFading Gigolo is a hard sell.  It's barely an hour and twenty minutes long, but still feels like John Turturro is cramming in padding for the film at the beginning and the end.  But even when the threat of excess or narcissism creeps in around the edges, some wispy bit of charm brings it back from the brink.

Early in the film we are introduced to Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), who is gussied up in a nice dress and standing on a stark patio overlooking the night.  She says, "I just got back from an Aids benefit," and I cringed a bit at the directness of the staging as though she needed some excuse to be dressed up.  Then a funny thing happens, every time we see her she's dressed up in a new gown that seems fit for an opera or high society dinner function, and she's always alone in these vaguely modernist and stark furnishings.  It finally struck me that this is just something that she does, and doesn't always have somewhere to go but gets dressed up to pose around her art collection.

I've never been big on Woody Allen the comedic actor, but he sparkles in Fading Gigolo.

I've never been big on Woody Allen the comedic actor, but he sparkles in Fading Gigolo.

This is where I knew I was going to be in for a special film.  Turturro's script hones in on just how lonely he and the women he escorts are, and then provides them with these unique and quietly funny details about the little quirks in their lives that make them this way.  He does this in a way that is never mean or winking at the audience, sincerely trusting in the oddness that separates these people from others.  I should have expected nothing less from the man whose last film got the reserved James Gandolfini to sing his heart out with a cadre of dancing garbagemen, but the surprise is pleasant all the same.

The little quirks that line Fading Gigolo have some of my favorite storytelling details of the year.  Sometimes they are simply unusual considering the performers involved, such as the sight of Woody Allen leading his tie-clad semi-adopted black grandchild to a local hairdresser to get rid of his lice, that nonetheless have a familiar warmth.  Other times they are touching and painful, as is the case of Avigal's (Vanessa Paradis) session with Fioravante (Turturro) that ends not in sex, but in a simple back rub that brings her to tears at the first touch of another human she's had since her husband died.  There's precious little dialogue to explain any of this as Turturro relies entirely on the visual sensation of Allen leading the child by the hand or Turturro and Paradis' fingers touch briefly when he brings her water.

Some of this threatens to turn into problematic territory, especially with Fioravante's side-gig as a gigolo and a team of Orthodox Jews who start stalking Avigal and Fioravante.  But there is no sexism to be had as the women who are Fioravante's clients are treated as respected equals who just aren't getting what they want in the public sphere.  Sophia Vergara does an excellent job dealing with this in her role as Selmia, teasing the bluff right out of Fioravante's quiet nervousness he plays off as charm, and identifying the kind of man he is.  The subplot with the Jewish community which eventually turns into kidnapping doesn't play off as well, but still has one brilliant image that I'm surprised hasn't been in a Woody Allen film as he and his lawyer nervously argue in front of an Orthodox court.

Simple touch, quiet devastation.

Simple touch, quiet devastation.

I've spoken of the warmth in the dialogue and characters, but the film's visuals are overflowing with it.  Turturro tints the image to give it the exposed haze of perpetual dusk on a hot summer day as everyone is ready to relax.  Some of the compositions, such as when Avigal and Fioravante are talking through their past and leaving a misty world atop the stone stairs as they walk into a blooming park, are beautiful, much like Fioravante's flower arrangements.  There's also the simple charm of Turturro and Allen's charisma with one another, as Turturro smiles through Allen's plans for code-names for the both of them (I'm sad they didn't use it, but I love Allen's suggestion of "Iceburg" as a his pimp codename.)

Then as quickly as the charm flows in, it just as easily leaves.  Fading Gigolo is not the accomplishment Romance & Cigarettes was, but made with the same loving spirit.  It's not often people put their disappointment aside to comfort someone in love.  Even rarer is for that realization to come during a threesome.

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Tail - Fading GigoloFading Gigolo (2014)

Screenplay written and directed by John Turturro.
Starring John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, and Sofia Vergara.

Posted by Andrew

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