Fading Gigolo is an uneasy time

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Directed by John Turturro. Starring John Turturro and Woody Allen. Rating unavailable.

The gigolo of the title is not fading but actually blooming, according to writer-director John Turturro, who also plays the lead. When we meet this reluctant playboy, a shy, middle-aged flower-shop worker with the unusually apt name of Fioravante, he’s commiserating with older friend Murray, a similarly struggling bookshop owner played by Woody Allen, who pretty much takes over the movie—for better or worse.

Like most book nooks in Manhattan, Murray’s place is going under, and he smells a new opportunity when his dermatologist (Sharon Stone) mentions that she’s willing to pay someone to be in a threesome with her and Sofia Vergara. There are so many things weird about that sentence, one doesn’t know where to begin. But let’s just say that Turturro, in his third feature-directing venture, has an uneasy time reconciling various hard-to-believe bits into a coherent movie.

With his unlikely pimp in tow, the black-clad flower man begins a side career in pleasing hot New York ladies, as seen in brief montage sequences, accompanied by Allen-esque music choices in a tasteful jazz and Latin vein. Turturro’s real interest—as a filmmaker and a character—is in Avigal (a soulful Vanessa Paradis), a single mother in a Hasidic Brooklyn neighbourhood. She hasn’t been touched since her husband died two years earlier, and where Murray sees a business opportunity, Fioravante makes a tender human connection.

Avigal’s enclave, however, is a pretty closed space; hell, she’s not even supposed to shake hands with Orthodox men, let alone Italian gigolos. And she’s carefully followed by a neighbourhood-watch dude played by Liev Schreiber with inarticulate intensity. Turturro seems afraid of this situation’s dramatic possibilities, however, and leavens it with easygoing humour, even calling in Bob Balaban, as a kvetching lawyer.

This timidity fits with the protagonist, who’s barely more than a passive observer of mostly pleasant events involving sketchily drawn people. He’s supposed to bloom by the end, but just ask Murray: he’s barely more than a bud.

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