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DVD review: 'Fading Gigolo'

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'Fading Gigolo'

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We all know John Turturro as an actor. Those of us who pay even closer attention know that he has had some modest success behind the camera, writing and directing a few films.

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His most recent work is 'Fading Gigolo.'

Murray (Woody Allen) is the owner of a bookstore that is about to close. His sole employee, Fioravante (John Turturro) also works part time at a florist to eke out a meager living. Being the shrewd entrepreneur that he is, Murray recalls his dermatologist Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone) confiding in him that she wanted to engage in a three-way with her ladyfriend Selima (Sofia Vergara) and a suitable male. Murray takes it upon himself to nominate Fio, who eventually agrees to go along with the scheme. It proves to be a successful endeavor and continues, much to the profit and delight of both (especially Murray).

Things change when Fio is put in contact with Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), the widow of a late Hassidic Rabbi. The encounter is of the non-sexual variety and begins to get her out of her culturally-imposed shell, which made her very lonely. This arouses the suspicions of Dovi (Liev Schreiber), a local patrolman who has pined for Avigal since childhood.

Will this business venture be sustainable for the duo? Will actual feelings enter the picture?

Let's be honest, Turturro is a talented guy, but it's hard to see him as being the charmer as every single woman seems to find him here. On one hand, it's nice that the film wastes no time getting into the heart of the story, but on the other hand, there seems to be little realistic hesitation or internal debate about launching into the plan. Besides, hasn't a variation on this scheme been done plenty of times before? Equally troubling is the unlikely relationship Fio strikes up with a grieving, devout Jewish widow. Much of the film's conflict hinges upon it, but it is both far-fetched and very strange, especially early on.

Gripes aside, the film is rather funny, given the low-stakes and independent spirit in which it is made. It puts a nice spotlight on a Brooklyn neighborhood (Williamsburg) that rarely seems to be represented in film while also sharing some information about the Jewish culture, exaggerated as some elements may be.

Of course Turturro is fine in his own film. The real surprise is Allen who rarely acts in other people's projects. Something about this must have appealed to him because the material really suits him and his performance shows it. Strangely, the slightly flawed script seems to capture a funny Allen more so than most of his own recent scripts. It's nice to see him on screen for a change.

Special features include: commentary, deleted scenes and previews.

'Fading Gigolo' is an amusing little diversion. It might not prove to be very substantial, but it's a fun independent film that warrants a rental from fans of the stars.

Rated R 90 minutes 2014

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