So here’s the premise – a guy and his best friend are down on their luck, struggling to pay rent, and looking for a new means of income. One of the chums hears that sexual services are in demand, he recommends the other fellow, and they become a pimp and gigolo team sweeping New York City. Sounds like perfect fodder for two young funnymen like Jonah Hill as the pimp and Channing Tatum as the gigolo, right? Ha, you couldn’t be more wrong. Try imagining Woody Allen as the pimp and John Turturro as the gigolo, and then wrap your mind around Sofía Vergara and Sharon Stone paying Turturro for a time-restricted session of love-making. If Fading Gigolo isn’t an unfair tease to mild-mannered men around the globe, I don’t know what is.
There’s far more emotionality in Fading Gigolo than the simple premise suggests, as Fioravante (John Turturro) and Murray (Woody Allen) are mature men trying to straighten their own lives out – this isn’t a raunchy sex comedy. The situation presents itself when Mrs. Parker (Sharon Stone) and her best friend Selima (Sofía Vergara) come to Murray with the idea of participating in a random threesome, starting Fioravante’s new profession. As he accepts more clients, the duo delve deeper and deeper into the “pimping” game, until Fioravante meets a Jewish widow who he immediately connects with. While our gigolo attempts to control his emotions, Murray tries to avoid some of the heat brought on by growing attention around their new gig, but can these two stay out of trouble while keeping up this sexy charade?
At its core, Fading Gigolo represents a different breed of “sex comedy,” rivalling a younger generation of goofball perverts who exploit sexual intercourse in a twisted, raunchy display of attraction. Grasping onto the mature acceptance of a sensitive gigolo’s lifestyle, Turturro sets out to provide a rivalling mindset to movies like American Pie and Sex Drive, where motivations include losing one’s virginity. Fading Gigolo is the antithesis to such brutish, barbaric representations of sex, instead focusing on the connected drama that comes along with pimping at such an advanced stage in life. There’s a sweet, tender side to the pimping hustle that Turturro reveals, a sentence I never thought I’d formulate in a million years – for a multitude of reasons.
While Sharon Stone and Sofía Vergara stun as two foxy, conflicted women – characters whose true desires are never fully established – the collaboration between Woody Allen and John Turturro works like a charm. These Brooklyn natives embody two completely unimaginable characters, as the last profession Woody could be pinned for is a pimp. Neurotic, nerdy, socially awkward, and timid around females, Allen delivers a signature role down to stammering through sentences and dropping off-color jokes only a small Jewish man with thick-rimmed glasses could pull off.
Turturro balances Allen’s nerdiness with a cool, calm, suave character in Fioravante – a performance he isn’t always privileged enough to play. Showing great depth once again as an actor, Fioravante displays a side of Turturro that’s masculine, rugged, and sexy – adjectives that might not necessarily pop into your head while imagining the star of Barton Fink.
Writing, directing, and starring in Fading Gigolo, Turturro delivers an extremely personal role that’s also intriguingly complicated through themes of guilt, love, and gratification, keeping those conflicting emotions separate while inevitably intertwining them with sex. The age of our characters gracefully allows such a film to address issues of widowed loneliness and orthodox practices via blunt expositions between characters who have reached a point in their lives where time-wasting games are a thing of the past – a fresh take on sexual comedy from a unique and unexpected viewpoint.
For how charming Woody Allen and John Turturro remain while providing companion services to so many lonely/bored older clientele, Fading Gigolo does suffer from a somewhat overly cutesy story that gets lost in detached moments of lifeless plotting. While Fioravante’s growing passion for Avigal (Vanessa Paradis) warms the heart, the always looming threesome with Sharon Stone and Sophia Vergara’s characters becomes overly comical and somewhat detracting, especially concerning Stone’s marital situation. Her compass remains too ambiguous, dancing between maliciously deviant and sadly guilty, and the character of Dr. Parker becomes lost amidst a punchline found later on during Fading Gigolo‘s climax – an exemplification of a story that falls victim to its own “too good to be true” branding.
Fading Gigolo isn’t about a man-whore on the decline, or an old professional trying to compete in today’s uber-competitive pimping game, but a examination of a basic human emotion that every one of us strives for. That said, not every character is meaningfully fleshed out, and Fioravante’s journey isn’t always as exciting as hoped, but filmmaker John Turturro hits enough in-tune notes to sing a vaguely familiar, yet newly inspired fire-side love ballad.
What could have been a shallow, salacious romp ends up being a much more heartfelt endeavor about old friends, new love, and the need for human compassion.