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.