Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Fading Gigolo (2013)

John Turturro serves up a sex comedy that's a cross between Woody Allen and the Coen brothers

An elderly rare books dealer (Woody Allen) goes out of business and on a chance comment from his doctor (a sex-starved Sharon Stone), pimps out his old pal (John Turturro), a rugged florist, as a classy gigolo for her, her girlfriend, and other well-heeled ladies of New York. Hilarity ensues. Then they take up a Chasidic widow who could do with some tender loving and attract the suspicions of the morality police of her community. More hilarity ensues!

The initial premise of Fading Gigolo takes an entire act to establish, given its offbeat absurdity, which is milked for laughs. Yet instead of developing into either a sex farce or a gender-reversed a whore with a heart of gold romcom or drama, Fading Gigolo comes across as a variation of the narrative experiments Woody Allen used to make in middle period, where a familiar premise is married to a wrong genre. In this case, the film is unmistakably the very improbable offspring of an early Woody Allen romantic comedy set in New York (but with seniors!) and a Coen brothers regional flavour shaggy dog story and thriller featuring eccentric locals (but in New York!).

This is a rare film that is exactly the sum of its parts—not more and not less. As a sidekick to John Turturro's protagonist, Woody Allen delivers the funny lines without overshadowing the script. Turturro, Stone, and Vergara dial in what is expected from their casting. Vanessa Paradis adds a melancholic beauty that meshes well with the sex comedy for contemplative oldsters and hipsters premise. The film delivers no surprises aside from what it already promises, yet delivers exactly what you'd expect of it.

Fading Gigolo plays like an indie film on a very modest budget. While Mr Turturro may have pitch perfect stunt casting but like other indie directors and writers, the script is so shaggy you suspect Mr Turturro just let the story take a few more turns and meanders than a snappy minor studio production—which most recent Woody Allen films feel like—would have allowed.

I for one am not complaining. The scenic detours of the script, its rambling but cordial nature, and a stunt casting that doesn't feel desperate all turn out to be ingredients that make this almost-sex farce so watchable and worthwhile despite its unconventionality.

1 comment:

Lisa B. said...

I like your vision. (Probably because it matches mine.) Now I have somewhere to go when the NYT doesn't review a movie. Thanks for writing this.