Fading Gigolo Review
Its funny, because last week I wrote my weekly Essentials review on "Hannah and Her Sisters" and I just realized that movie had a starring role for Woody Allen himself. Not only that, but John Turturro of all people has a quick in-and-out presence, that was still supremely funny. As I sat down to watch "Fading Gigolo" tonight, I thought Turturro and Allen in the same movie felt like as stroke of genius. However, I nearly forgot that the seeds for this momentous occasion had been growing since 1986.
"Fading Gigolo" is the first film written and directed by John Turturro. It revolves around Murray (Allen) and Fioavante (Turturro). Fioavante is helping his friend close down a bookstore Murray's father opened himself. Instead of being depressed, Murray seems optimistic, because he has already thought of a brand new business venture. Murray talks Fioavante into becoming a gigolo and Murray plans to be his manager. While Fioavante is reluctant at first, he feels bad for his friends and agrees to the odd offer. What seems caddy at first, turns into a striking business and it seems like Murray and Fioavante won't be able to slow down.
Sound familiar? Rob Schneider pretty much covered this similar territory in 2000, in a movie called "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo." While the Schneider film had some funny moments, I found the film to be an overall dud. I understand that we live in an entertainment world that exchanges similar ideas. I can live with that, just as long as the idea feels fresh each time it is used. I don't feel John Turturro really added anything new to the mix with this story. "Fading Gigolo" just boils down into a more offbeat, classier version of "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo," and nothing more. I wouldn't call the movie a blantant rip-off, but it covers the same territory. I didn't like "Deuce Bigalow" and I wasn't much of a fan of "Fading Gigolo." Perhaps I just don't like prostitution movies, on the other end of the gender spectrum, I recall detesting "Pretty Woman," "Showgirls" and "Striptease."
First of all, it seems that "Fading Gigolo" is horrendously disjointed. At first you think the film will revolve around two particular clients of Fioavante (played to perfection by Sophie Vergara and Sharon Stone.). Then there comes another subplot where it seems Fioavante may have fallen in love with a completely different client (Vanessa Paradis). The film shifts between these stories, but never in a sound, flowing manner. It seems "Fading Gigolo" wants to be two movies at the same time, and that rarely works. Murray's subplots also add nothing to the context of the film and seem to go absolutely nowhere. In fact, I feel Woody Allen's character could have been completely deleted from the text of the script and the film would have ended the exact same way.
Don't get me wrong, I love Woody Allen. He helped me shape my taste in the movies, and he has been vital in my film language skills. Part of the reason I wanted to see this movie so badly was because of him. I felt under a new voice, we would see a different side of Woody. This is absolutely not the case. Woody Allen plays his typical Woody Allen persona, wisecracking, anxious and stiff. Too bad, it would be cool to see if he actually had depth. It almost felt as if Woody wrote his own lines for his character.
John Turturro, Sophie Vergara, Sharon Stone and Vanessa Paradis are all good in this movie. I just wish the film could have focused on one storyline over the other. I can't tell you all how much I am getting annoyed by movies that try to tell several major story arcs in less than two hours. If one wants to make sprawling stories, write for television. In the world of film, it is much harder to sustain, and the focus of the audience seems sporadic. I also would point out that Liev Schreiber shows up as a Jewish police officer on the trail of Murray and Fioavante. His character is the typical enforcement gumshoe, absolutely nothing new here.
What I was hoping would be a possible new frontier for Turturro turned into a aching disappointment. Its too bad watching an actor you love try something, only to fail at it miserably. Hopefully if Turturro takes another stab at writing and directing, he can do a better job, this experiment went completely off the rails.
FINAL GRADE: D-