One of the highlights of MIFF’s first weekend was actor-director John Turturro’s fifth feature Fading Gigolo, a genial comedy in which the actor casts himself as a prostitute for hire, and best of all, Woody Allen as his pimp! Although the premise and trailer hint at a broad sex comedy, Turturro’s film is instead a tender and mature examination of sexuality and emotional intimacy among average Joe New Yorkers.
Turturro plays Fioravante, a sometime plumber/florist who has fallen on hard times. His older friend Murray (Woody Allen) is also in a financial bind. When Murray’s lonely dermatologist (Sharon Stone) confesses to him that she needs a man, he persuades his younger friend to become a lover-for-hire. Fioravante is, of course, reluctant at first, but he needs the money. With his surprising potency with women and Murray’s energetic pimping, the duo soon builds a healthy clientele of very satisfied customers (among them, a desperate nymphomaniac played hilariously by Sofia Vergara).
While Turturro is the lead, his performance is a rather low-key one. Instead, it’s Allen who gets all the best lines and comedic moments. His timing and delivery during a bizarre kidnapping scene towards the film’s climax ranks among the funniest work he’s done since Hannah and Her Sisters. Even if the film loses track in its last act by concentrating too much on Fiorovante relationship with a lonely Hassidic widow named Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), Turturro (who also wrote the film) sets things right by ending on a sweet and unexpected note that left me smiling, and the Miami Film Festival audience I watched it with, cheering. Liev Schreiber, Jill Sott and Bob Balaban appear in key supporting roles.
Fading Gigolo is rated R “for some sexual content, language and brief nudity” and will open for wide release in South Florida debut in May.