DVD review: Fading Gigolo

fading-gigoloThere are people who, were they to wash ashore on a desert island, would run for island mayor. These are the natural-born pols. Others would form a theatrical company (hams) and put on a play. Still others would start an island newspaper (hacks). It’s their nature.

And though he still be caked with sand, Woody Allen would start making a movie. It’s what he does. Since 1965, he has written, directed or starred (usually all three) in 75 movies. He makes movies the way you make pancakes. And, like your pancakes, some are either overdone or underdone and need to be chucked.

This is the case with “Fading Gigolo.” It’s not even Woody Allen’s movie. John Turturro directed and stars, but Turturro’s morose, hangdog lover boy is no match for the whining, wheedling scene stealer. Allen directs himself and inflects most every scene — sometimes for the better, but not always.

Though the title suggests “Gigolo” wasn’t going to be a ton of fun, there was promise in the fact that Allen, Sofía Vergara, Sharon Stone, Liev Schreiber and Vanessa Paradis (Johnny Depp’s ex-girlfriend) were in it. Promise not kept.

The story: Rare book dealer Murray (Allen) is going out of business. His part-time clerk, Fioravante (Turturro), helps him pack up the dusty volumes. Murray mentions a conversation he had had that day with his dermatologist (Stone) who was looking for a three-way. Murray said he knew just the guy for the menage … but it would cost her $1,000.

The guy Murray has in mind is Fioravante. It is at this point that three things happen: Murray becomes a pimp, Fioravante becomes a gigolo and the movie rockets off the rails into another universe. It’s sweet, but so is maple syrup: try getting your arms around either.

Murray lives in a Brooklin apartment with an African-American woman (Tonya Pinkins) and her four children. All of whom come into the orbit of an Orthodox policeman named Dovi (Schreiber), who preserves civil and rabbinic order in the ’hood. Dovi is in love with a melancholic Hasidic widow (Paradis) who has a brief, chaste but intense interlude with Fioravante.

Individually, most of the performers are quite good. Turturro is as sad and thoughtful as Allen is fraught and yakky. Sharon Stone comes across older but wiser. Schreiber appears puzzled by women, his sidecurls, Murray and the rabbinic court that is convened to determine if the Hasidic widow has honored all the conventions. (The scene of religious rulemaking and deliberations struck us as inappropriately farcical.)

“Gigolo” might charitably be written off as a series of character studies, which it is. But if this is so, why bother with a plot?

Oh. They didn’t.

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]