Soul and Wit are the Essence of John Turturro’s ‘Fading Gigolo’

Gabriella Tutino

 

Written, directed by and starring John Turturro, Fading Gigolo is a subtle, charming comedy making an observation about the entanglements of sex and love. It could be due to the age of the cast in the film, but there is a tender treatment of the relationships portrayed, bringing out raw honesty.

The premise is rather simple:  Murray (Woody Allen), a rare bookseller, literally “pimps out” his close friend Fioravante ( Turturro), a florist, for a threesome since his business is going under. After a successful venture, the two friends partner up. The business arrangement starts to unravel, however, as Floravante begins to fall for one of his clients: a Jewish widow still mourning the death of her husband.

The complications start when Murray’s dermatologist, Dr. Parker, played by Sharon Stone, decides to test out Fioravante before going through with the threesome. In a few, masterful scenes, we see Dr. Parker fall in love with Fioravante: she is hesitant to share him with her friend Selima (Sofia Vergara) who is also contracted for the ménage a trois; she approaches him when she is out with her husband; and there is a conversation of ‘saudade’—the Portuguese word which roughly translates to ‘wanting something that doesn’t exist.’

In the midst of this, Murray continues to find clients for Fioravante. When Murray’s kids get lice, he takes them to Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), a Jewish widow. Murray convinces Avigal to meet  Fioravante under the guise of getting a massage, and when they meet ther is a tender connection. Avigal and Fioravante’s relationship becomes an issue, however, when Dovi (Liev Schreiber)—who is part of the Jewish police neighborhood watch—takes an interest in Avigal’s new habits.

Everything culminates when at the height of Fioravante and Avigal’s relationship, Murray is kidnapped by Dovi and co. to investigate the situation. As the Jewish community holds Murray in court, Avigal comes in to stand up for herself in an inspiring and touching moment.

 

 

Fading Gigolo is reminiscent of Woody Allen films, but the film itself is more grounded. The comedy comes from the entirety of the situation and some clever one-liners, rather than a series of set-up jokes. This, plus the natural pacing of the film, gives Fading Gigolo a realistic lens on what is otherwise an odd situation. The movie benefits from a well-written cast of characters, each with strong convictions.

Fioravante is a reluctant, lovable leading man, more in touch with the emotional side of the gigolo business. On a deeper level, Fading Gigolo is less about a man selling his body for sex, and more about the beauty of human connection.

 

Author Bio:
Gabriella Tutino is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

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