By Michael Themistocleous
“Fading Gigolo,” released on April 18th, is John Turturro’s (“Barton Fink”) fifth effort as a writer/director. In a Woody Allen-ish way, Turturro tells the story of Fioravante (played by Turturro) who decides to become a professional Don Juan as a way of making money to help his friend Murray (Woody Allen, “To Rome with Love”) who is in desperate need of cash. With Murray acting as his pimp, the duo quickly finds themselves caught up the interweaving lines of money and love.
The film isn’t a great comedy, but it is filled with plenty of laughs, most of which are supplied by Allen, who plays a typical variation of himself — the neurotic Jewish man. Turturro has a stroke of writing brilliance when deciding to turn that character into a pimp, and there is a strong creative partnership apparent between the two filmmakers. Their on screen chemistry works well, to compliment Vanessa Padis’ incredibly powerful performance as a lonely, strict Jewish woman whose husband died two years prior.
The off-beat humor of “Fading Gigolo” certainly targets a specific audience. A majority of the comedy derives from Jewish culture. While this sort of writing may be partially lost on a non-Jewish audience member, there is enough plot to guide the audience along nonetheless. There is a noted lack of sexism in the film, but at first it seems to be the contrary. The story is on the surface about love, sex ad prostitution — with an instant anti-feminist feeling, as if women are pieces of meat. However, Turturro writes strong female characters that develop with the love story, and combat this sexist mentality.
Another great aspect of the film is that, while it may seem like a Woody Allen copy-film, it’s not a blatant rip-off. “Fading Gigolo” joins the ranks of films like Josh Radnor’s “Liberal Arts” in successfully taking the Allen style and making it their own.
“Fading Gigolo” is a sexy, witty, entertaining and very Jewish film. Turturro did a splendid job with a light-hearted comedy. It’s definitely not a spectacular comedy, but with plenty of good laughs, it’s a good selection for the early-mid film year.