It hasn't happened very often, but here and there, Woody Allen has been known to take on acting roles in films that he has not written or directed. He appears in Fading Gigolo (opening today), presumably as a favor to friend and fellow New Yorker, John Turturro, who plays the lead and also wrote and directed. It's a perfect part for Woody Allen, who plays (what else?) a neurotic Jew with deep insecurities. But Allen's array of occasionally amusing one-liners isn't enough to save this misguided, misogynistic film.
The film quickly cuts to the chase in its very first scene: Old friends Murray (Allen) and Fioravante (Turturro) have a conversation in a bookstore. Murray tells Fioravante that he has come across a married woman (Sharon Stone) who mentioned she is interested in having a threesome with her girlfriend (Sofia Vergara). Murray tells her that he has just the guy, and that guy is Fioravante, and that he can arrange the threesome for her for a nice sum of cash.
At first, he questions Murray's sanity but then reluctantly agrees (what a tough decision for this unmarried loner!). Before actually partaking in the menage a trois, the woman wants to "try him out" solo. Apparently Fioravante is good at adultery. So Murray becomes Fioravante's pimp and suddenly Fioravante is the desire of every lonely woman in Manhattan as the two turn Fioravante's sexual skills into a profitable business.
Of course, he eventually comes across a woman that catches his eye and steals his heart. Avigal (Vanessa Paradis) is a fragile and conservative Jewish woman being stalked by a local neighborhood watch officer (Liev Schreiber). Fioravante and Avigal share some intimate moments, not that you would know it though, judging by Turturro's emotion-less expression that he carries throughout the entirety of the film.
While this entire premise must have been delightful for Turturro, it's quite a tedious venture for the audience. This is a "comedy" that is not all that funny. It's a "drama" that's too shallow and light to have any dramatic impact. Characters exist as stereotypes and caricatures. Sure, Turturro gets to interact with Woody Allen, make out with Sharon Stone and film sex scenes with Sofia Vergara. But he over-shoots his own capabilities and the audience's believability that John Turturro is the man that every woman longs for. It just doesn't work, not the story, not the situations and definitely not the implausible "twist" ending to this mundane tale.
This is a story without meaning, vaguely reaching to say something about the nature of love but falling way short. Who wouldn't want to have Fioravante's problems? It sure seems hard to make a movie about a threesome involving Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara uninteresting and devoid of excitement, but it manages to do so. That's the real accomplishment of Fading Gigolo.
Run Time: 1 hours, 30 minutes, Rated R
Starring: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Liev Schreiber, Vanessa Paradis, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara
Written & Directed by John Turturro (Passione, Romance & Cigarettes, Illuminata, Mac)
Opens locally on Friday, May 9, 2014 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time