Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published April 19th 2014
Making money doing something you love
Director: John Turturro (Romance & Cigarettes, Illuminata, Mac) Cast: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber
Known primarily to audiences as a character actor in Spike Lee and Coen Brothers films, John Turturro's directorial career gets a profile lift thanks to the novelty factor of seeing Woody Allen playing a pimp in Fading Gigolo.
John Turturro: writer, director and star of Fading Gigolo
At first glance this may seem like a cheap, one-gag film about a middle-aged, not particularly attractive man humiliating himself in a desperate attempt to make money as a high class prostitute. Turturro though has more on his mind, giving us not only a depiction of the loneliness of single women but unexpectedly the vulnerability of the titular character, who falls for one of his clients.
As the 'fading gigolo', writer/director Turturro could hardly be accused of delivering a vanity project. Indeed, it's his tendency towards self-deprecation that gives the film much of its charm. His Fioravante is a regular joe with no delusions as to his own merits as a lover or an object of desire. His entry into the world's oldest profession is a product of constant cajoling from old friend Murray (Allen), who sees an opportunity for quick bucks by pimping out his chum, primarily to his doctor and her friend for a cheeky threesome.
Fast talking Murray (Woody Allen) pimps out a dubious Fioravante (Turturro)
Allen's presence is the film's biggest drawcard but by no means its biggest asset, although his limited range as an actor fits nicely into the parameters of the character. It comes as no surprise that Turturro wrote the part specifically for Allen.
Fioravante's clientele includes an unnervingly assured Dr Parker (Sharon Stone), her sultry siren companion Selima (Sofia Vergara) and, in an imaginative piece of casting, Vanessa Paradis as a mousy Hasidic widow.
Dr Parker (Sharon Stone) and Salima (Sofia Vergara) represent surprisingly satisfied customers
Those reading the synopsis and expecting a commercial comedy will be disappointed. There are laughs to be had, but it's very much a gentle variation on New York Jewish humour. This is a slight but enjoyable character study that remains understated in tone despite the salacious topic.