This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 4th May 2014
It all starts with a ménage a trois. Well, the offer of one.
John Turturro, best known as part of the Coen Brothers’ crew from the good old days of Barton Fink and The Big Lebowski, writes, directs and stars in this Noo Yawk story of a gentle-natured florist who decides to supplement his income with the turning of some tricks. Persuaded by his older friend, Murray (Woody Allen, delivering lines and a performance that definitely seem written so that he didn’t have to step out of his comfort zone) to countenance a threesome with a rich socialite and her girlfriend, Turturro’s unassuming flower arranger, Fioravante, takes to the world’s oldest profession like a duck to water. Then one day he meets a young Jewish widow whose needs are simpler and yet more complex.
Supported by a delightfully eclectic cast of famous faces (and bodies), Turturro has crafted a sumptuous, enjoyable romp which puts middle-aged actors centre stage against the backdrop of this most characterful of cities. Gigolo showcases Sharon Stone in amazing frocks, vulnerable and cute as she shovels potato crisps into her mouth in anxiety of having to share her new lover. French actress/pop singer Vanessa Paradis is impressive as the understated Orthodox widow, and even Allen, albeit doing and saying everything we feel we’ve seen a million times before, adds vigour to the proceedings and proves a perfect foil for Turturro’s sensitive soul.
The film is beautifully lit in rich, warm tones, the jaunty soundtrack spilling with French, Italian, even Arabic songs. At the same time, it’s anything but subtle, with the story and characters playing out their clichés towards a resolution that borders on farce before an Orthodox Jewish tribunal. The mixed bag includes some awkward scripting (usually involving Allen) and the vampish (and typecast) Sofia Vergara, described as “well-constructed – a miracle of physics” and yet again given nothing of substance to act with.
Light, frothy and ultimately bemusing, Fading Gigolo’s point is not entirely clear but Turturro has certainly arranged a pretty picture.