John Turturro has been acting around Hollywood for awhile now, his first film credit being in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, but his writing and directing credits are slim and little known. His latest, Fading Gigolo, shows a lot of promise and skill in directing by the veteran actor but the scene stealing work and similar subject matter of screen mate Woody Allen takes away from a charming effort by Turturro.
Fading Gigolo follows Fioravante (Turturro) a florist who is roped into the gigolo by newly unemployed friend Murray (Allen). Allen turns in some of his best recent acting work in this role which seems to be a more focused version of his role in his own film, From Rome with Love. Turturro’s work includes visiting lonely women including Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara and Vanessa Paradis (because in this world I guess Vergara is lonely).
Turturro builds a nice atmosphere for the film, built around shots of New York and jazz music, but this all feels to similar to something Allen would be in, which makes his inclusion all the more apparent that it is Turturro pulling off a Woody Allen film. Not to say that is a bad step, honestly Fading Gigolo would be one of Allen’s best screwball comedies in awhile.
But it does taint the effort made by Turturro to establish any sense of style to his own film. Where he does seem to separate himself from Allen is in his shot selection, where Turturro seems to have a more fluid action to his camera work rather than Allen who seems to be more stiff in his later works. Turturro does a solid job of setting up the plot and taking us on the journey early on without wasting too much time with finding out who the characters are we will be following (part of this works because it is Woody Allen playing Woody Allen, which begs for no introduction).
I think the best aspect of Fading Gigolo is its texture which shows a knowledge of creating a film and an ambiance that makes the mood charming and entertaining to be a part of. But where it struggles is in digging into why these women crave the attention of an outside man or what really draws Fioravante to the lovely Avigal (Paradis). Stone and Vergara’s characters, while one-dimensional at times, had room to dive into what made them want to experiment and live a little on the wild side. In the case of Stone’s character, it seemed like a lot lied under the facade of being with this other man that was just left up to her not being happy with her husband.
The film seemed preoccupied, or unfocused, and left out what was truly important in the film, the women. Avigal was an interesting case and her focus was nice to see during the second half but a few more minutes with the other female characters would of created a little more background to the work that Fioravante did prior to meeting Avigal.
While feeling too much like a Woody Allen film, Fading Gigolo still made an effort to separate itself from the legend that graced half the screen with its star. Turturro shows a great knowledge of film and a lot of promise as a director. But the unfocused nature of the film created the problems and forgetting about the important people in your film is a cardinal sin.