wd – John Turturro
ph – Marco Pontecorvo
pd – Lester Cohen
m – Abraham Laboriel, Bill Maxwell
ed – Simona Paggi
cos – Donna Zakowska
p – Paul Hanson, Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte, Bill Block
Cast: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Liev Schreiber, Vanessa Paradis, Tonya Pinkins, Jade Dixon
Fading Gigolo is the kind of comedy that seems proficient only in showing how all its comedic pieces go together than in making you laugh. The screenplay has been founded on an ageless comedic premise: A depressed florist finds himself at a loss for his next step in life until his old friend and failed bookseller suggests he become a Don Juan for money. A gigolo.
The florist in question, Fioravante, is played by the film’s writer and director, John Turturro. Murray, his old friend and eventual pimp, is played Woody Allen. It seems that Murray's dermatologist, a horny woman played by Sharon Stone, has been searching for a man who can fill out a ménage à trois with her friend, the equally concupiscent Sofia Vergara. There is a subplot involving a sexy (apparently) Hasidic neighborhood cop (Liev Schreiber) who is smitten with a rabbi’s sexy (apparently) widow (Vanessa Paradis).
The casting here is of note. At first, one might scarcely believe it. But undoubtedly Mr Turturro has cast himself and Mr Allen in a movie about a gigolo and his pimp on purpose. It is the first indication that we are witnessing a comedy. The result is defective. Mr Turturro winds up coasting on the casting as a comedic idea and the joke gracefully obliterates.
Fioravante begins to find success in this career. He achieves this not from his sexual power but from his vulnerability and sensitive way, which the movie tells us is what women want. This remains perplexing throughout the film because Mr Turturro’s performance is not so much sensitive as it is bland. Mr Allen continues to editorialize his dialogue as he speaks it, much like in his own films. But Murray’s intensions are never clear outside the realms of humorous possibility and the character becomes annoying well before the end.
The problem here is that Mr Turturro has a lot of trouble making anything mobilize, confounding speech with slapstick and keeping the energy level low at all times. Watching the film is an agonized exercise in grievance. You can clearly see all the desperate, effectual comedic elements – again, Mr Turturro has no problem in allowing them to be visible – with each one knocking the other out of the way to announce its presence, never melting together as one.
I couldn’t help, as I sat there, but envision how I would conversely arrange the same material. What if the characters communicated clearly with one another? What if their intentions made sense? Comedy is hard and anyone else doing the same material might not exactly create a funnier piece. But I hope they would at least create one that was interesting to watch. Or even think about. Fading Gigolo leaves the mind as soon as it enters it.