Fading Gigolo Blu-ray Review
Murray (Woody Allen, marking the first time he’s starred in another director’s film since Alfonso Arau’s 2000 black comedy PICKING UP THE PIECES) is a rare books dealer with the burden of having the generations-old family business fail under his ownership. While loading up the last of the store’s boxes, he tells his friend, Fioravante (John Turturro, who recently portrayed Hades in Marc Turtletaub’s GODS BEHAVING BADLY), that his dermatologist told him that she and her girlfriend wanted to experience a ménage à trois and were willing to pay for it.
With Murray out of a job and Fioravante with less than $700 to his name, the two need money fast. And just like that, Murray plans to go from bookshop proprietor to New York City pimp, taking Fioravante out of the flower business and into the gigolo game.
Fioravante agrees and shows up at Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone, who played Aphrodite in GODS BEHAVING BADLY)’s apartment with a Japanese bouquet in hand. She comes down the steps one sexy heel at a time and invites him in. There is casual conversation and cocktails before heading to the bedroom. The pimp and the gigolo split the $2,500 and Fioravante declares to his friend, “I’m your ho.” Enter into the picture a widow named Avigal (French actress Vanessa Paradis), Shomrim member Dovi (Liev Schreiber, Showtime’s RAY DONOVAN) and Dr. Parker’s friend, Selima (Sofía Vergaga, ABC’s MODERN FAMILY), and things get a bit more complicated than anticipated.
FADING GIGOLO is Turturro’s fifth directorial feature, after 1992’s MAC, 1998’s ILLUMINATA, 2005’s ROMANCE & CIGARETTES and 2010’s PASSIONE. Turturro, who previously adapted Allen’s “Honeymoon Motel” into one-third of his 2011 play “Relatively Speaking,” also wrote the screenplay, which has traces of his star’s trademarks.
But FADING GIGOLO isn’t a Woody Allen knockoff. While it does have a basic visual approach and quirky characters, it holds its own as an amusing romantic comedy. And it is relatively sweet, as Fioravante falls for Avigal, and steadily humorous, as just the ideas of Allen living with five people that he wouldn’t even normally cast in his own movies and his looking the exact opposite of what we picture as a stereotypical pimp (no feathered hat, no leopard-print jacket, no cane).
Some of the images and plot devices are absurd, but it only occasionally feels over the top. What benefits the movie is that, despite some of these, it never seems as if Turturro is trying too hard. One of the more notable downsides is that the movie never feels fully fleshed out, as characters get into their new situations too easily (pimping may provide quick cash, but it seems a lengthy leap for a florist) and relationships form out of nothing concrete. With this, it’s difficult to get an idea of why exactly things are happening the way they are and how they’ll make sense if developed further.
FADING GIGOLO is a solid effort from Turturro that succeeds in pulling in a number of laughs (in part, perhaps, it could be, because Allen tinkered with his own lines?) and featuring a fairly sweet (if slightly undercooked) love story at the core.
FADING GIGOLO BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This Blu-ray offers an overall clean image, with fine details and healthy colors (although they’re a bit more muted in interior scenes).
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. Dialogue is clear and the surrounding sounds add a nice subtle atmosphere.
Audio commentary with director John Turturro: Turturro offers a solid commentary, balancing the time with behind-the-scenes stories and more technical details.
Deleted Scenes: There are six here, which can only be viewed separately. They are: “Alternate Opening,” “Woody Improv,” “Sharon in Bed,” “Blaaagh,” “Stepping on Woody’s Toe” and “Jazz Club – Original Cut.”