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Woody Allen plays as bookseller-turned-pimp to John Turturro’s middle-aged neophyte hustler, in actor-writer-director Turturro’s inspired left-field comedy. The premise is as inspired as it is absurd, and Turturro carries it off with his own affecting and surprisingly romantic vision of New York City.
Woody Allen plays a pimp and John
Turturro his gigolo employee. Got that?
Accept the brilliantly absurd premise of
Fading Gigolo and you're in for a hilarious
ride. Working from his own screenplay,
Turturro sets up the crazy idea in quick, bold
strokes, then goes on to explore just what
it would mean to be a middle-aged man for
hire. And did we mention he's a novice?
Fioravante (Turturro) is a junior florist
and friend to Murray (Allen), whose small
bookshop is facing closure. To help the
business stay solvent, the two men decide
to try the world's oldest profession. In a
New York full of wealthy older women with
active libidos, surely a greying Don Juan
could make a few bucks. And so, adopting
the names "Virgil Howard" and "Dan
Bongo," the duo gets to work.
Somewhere between Spike Lee's and
Woody Allen's own visions of idiosyncratic
New York lies the left-field comedy
Turturro brings to this film. His characters
are strong and unapologetic; in addition to
Allen's pimp and Turturro's gigolo, legendary
screen sexpots Sharon Stone and Sofia
Vergara turn up as eager clients. But the
film's most surprising and affecting element
is the romance that develops between
Fioravante and Avigal, an orthodox Jewish
widow played by Vanessa Paradis. Sheltered
and lonely, she slowly opens a door to the
outside world, but under the watchful eye of
Dovi (Liev Schreiber), a vigilant member of
the neighbourhood's Jewish police.
In the midst of Allen's remarkable resurgence
behind the camera, it's a thrill to
watch him work onscreen with someone
else's material. His wit and his rhythms are
in fine form here, and Turturro knows how
to use the legend to best effect. With Fading
Gigolo, Woody adds yet another indelible
role to his catalogue of New York stories.
- John Turturro
- John Turturro has starred in numerous
films, including Do The Right
Thing (89), Barton Fink (91), The Big
Lebowski (98), and O Brother, Where
Art Thou? (00). His directorial debut
Mac (92) screened at the Festival
and won a Camera d'Or Award at
Cannes. His other features as director
include Illuminata (98), Romance
& Cigarettes (05), which screened
at the Festival, Passione (10), and
Fading Gigolo (13).