Woody Allen plays a pimp and John Turturro his gigolo employee. Got that? Accept the brilliantly absurd premise of Fading Gigolo and youre 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 hes 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 worlds 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 Lees and Woody Allens 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 Allens pimp and Turturros gigolo, legendary screen sexpots Sharon Stone and Sofía Vergara turn up as eager clients. But the films 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 neighbourhoods Jewish police.
In the midst of Allens remarkable resurgence behind the camera, its a thrill to watch him work onscreen with someone elses 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.
Cameron Bailey, Toronto International Film Festival