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Fading Gigolo

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I met with a friend last week for dinner and a movie. We were to see Fading Gigolo, a light-hearted-looking film starring John Turturro and Woody Allen as leads, and a great cast of minor characters, so it seemed like a perfect night out.

We rushed dinner to make the film on time and I was loath to sit on only one glass of wine, as we hadn’t seen each other for a while. In hindsight, we should’ve ordered that second glass and accepted a late arrival to the film; we wouldn’t have been lost to the plot in the slightest, and the extra alcohol might have worked to make it seem funnier than it was.

Turturro plays Fioravante, a man easily persuaded by his long-time friend Murray (Allen) to become a gigolo. Turns out Murray’s dermatologist (Sharon Stone) is interested in a threesome and is willing to pay a man to join her and her friend Selima (Sofia Vergara), and since Fioravante has just lost his bookshop, finances are a bit of a worry. He acquiesces, bringing a new face to “gigolo” and a new sensitivity.

When Murray, now firm in his role as “unlikely pimp”, sets him up with Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), a Hasidic Jew widowed two years and unaccustomed to anything outside her Orthodox religion, she agrees to a massage from Fioravante, opening up her world to touch, and opening up Fioravante to the possibility of love.

The characters are interesting and are played well by all the actors (Paradis, in her first English-speaking role, is particularly convincing, and Turturro adds something unique to his repertoire), but, in the end, I didn’t care what happened to any of them.

Liev Schreiber, as the over-protective Hasidic neighbourhood watchman who’s quietly pined for Avigal since childhood, is too brusque to engender any sympathy, and though he brings about a potentially brilliant ending, it unfortunately just sits there on the screen.

The plot, too, is a good one, especially as we’re looking at the Hasidic community without making it the butt of a joke or the subject of an eerie wrongdoing. Turturro normalises it, adding an exotic, however wholesome, flavour to the script. I think the problem with this film is that it Is not funny enough to be a romantic comedy or a sophisticated comedy, yet it seems to cling to the idea that it was a comedy.

Such a fine cast, such an interesting director, such an untapped backdrop and yet it was all wasted on an ultimately boring film. Apologies to my friend; I owe you a glass of wine.

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Fading Gigolo
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The Other Woman
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The Invisible Woman
Like Father, Like Son
Any Day Now
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Noah
Half of a Yellow Sun
I, Frankenstein

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