cannot get by in New York with part-time floral arrangement work. Yet, as a
vocation, it probably means poor struggling Fioravante is a sensitive soul, who
is good with his hands. His cash-strapped former boss hatches an unlikely scheme
to capitalize on those talents in John Turturro’s Fading Gigolo (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
Schwartz’s antiquarian bookstore had been in his family for years, but it did
not survive the neurotic Upper Eastsider’s mismanagement. Fortunately, Schwartz’s
wife still has a job, but his longtime clerk Fioravante is scuffling to make
ends meets. A trip to his dermatologist gives Schwartz an idea so crazy, it
just might work. Evidently, the cougarish Dr. Parker and her BFF Selima are
looking for a man’s services. Frankly, they would prefer someone who is mature
and less intimidating than the stereotypical boy toy type. Reluctantly (and
rather skeptically), Fioravante agrees to let Schwartz pimp him out to his high
Fioravante is a hit with the well heeled ladies, because what woman wouldn’t
lust after John Turturro? However, things will get complicated when Schwartz
seeks the delousing services of a widow in the Brooklyn Hasidic community.
Picking up on Avigal’s loneliness as she picks through his step-child’s hair, Schwartz
convinces her to try Fioravante’s services. While their meeting is downright
chaste by his recent standards, it would still be considered scandalous within
her community. Further complicating matters, Fioravante and his new client
start developing confusing feelings for each other. Her out-of-character trips
to Manhattan also attract the suspicions of Dovi, the Orthodox neighborhood patrolman,
who has long carried a torch for her.
Fading is the sort of Woody Allen
movie Allen ought to be making, but isn’t. It is a wistfully mature film,
deeply steeped in an elegant sadness. The notion of writer-director Turturro casting
himself as the illicit lover of Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara might seem
self-serving, but the aging average Joe-ness of Fioravante is part of the
point. It is his comfort with intimacy that makes Fioravante desirable. If
anything, Fading is old school Alan
Alda sensitivity porn rather than a vehicle for people doing it like rabbits.
shows a remarkable deft touch as a director, patiently letting his scenes
unfold. He gets a key assist from the jazz soundtrack, which includes several
seductions from boss tenor Gene Ammons. Jug had a seductive sound that could get
anyone to say “yes,” but it also perfectly suits the sophisticated New York milieu.
does his shtick as Schwartz, but it is funny more often than not. Yet, it is
Turturro who quietly commands the screen as Fioravante, a sad clown incapable of
acting less than chivalrous. He develops some achingly powerful chemistry with
Vanessa Paradis in her first English language role as Avigal. Their scenes
together are a reminder how dramatically potent denial and yearning can be
Liev Schreiber could not possibly be any more earnest as the lovesick Dovi. Stone
and Vergara certainly look the parts of Fioravante’s clients, but never come
close to exposing the inner depths of their souls. In a small supporting role,
Bob Balaban nearly steals the show as Schwartz’s lawyer, Sol. In fact, Fading is well stocked with brief but
neatly turned performances, including Loan Chabanol as a French expat who makes
a strong impression late in the game.
Absolutely never smarmy, Fading is an emotionally intelligent film intended for an adult
audience. It should satisfy all of Woody Allen’s fans, but Turturro gives it
his own distinctive stamp. Highly recommended, Fading Gigolo opens this Friday (4/18) in New York at the Angelika
Film Center and the UES’s City Cinemas 1, 2, 3.
Labels: John Turturro, Liev Schreiber, Vanessa Paradis, Woody Allen