If you watched Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and thought “Hey, this is a great concept that could really work if it was done in a more realistic way and the humour was more sophisticated,” then good news! If you saw Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and thought “I really wish this had been written and directed by someone who was trying to imitate Woody Allen,” then the movie you’ve been waiting for is here.
In Fading Gigolo, writer/director John Turturro has cast himself Fioravante, a part-time florist whose only friend is an elderly bookseller named Murray (Woody Allen). Murray has a dermatologist (Sharon Stone) and his dermatologist has a problem. She wants to have a threesome with her friend (Sofia Vergara) but they just can’t find a willing man.
Why she thinks it a good idea to turn to a patient for help on this issue is never addressed. Perhaps she’s asked everyone else she knows. Perhaps she’s already spent too many wasted hours praying for a Tinder match that never comes. It doesn’t really matter.
She does ask Murray, and Murray tells her he can solve her problem. He as a friend, Fioravante, who will be perfect.
After going through the usual process of agreeing to do something you’re not sure you want to do (saying “there’s no way I’m doing that,” saying “I’m not saying I’m going to do it,” then suddenly finding yourself balls deep in Sharon Stone) Fioravante finds himself a raging success in the sex-for-money business. This is despite the fact that his only advertising is Woody Allen going up to much younger women he doesn’t know and creepily beckoning them into his friend’s apartment (which, given the murky and disturbing aspects of Allen’s past makes it an incredibly dodgy casting decision).
Meanwhile, he starts giving massages (because if you can do sex for money you can also operate as a professional masseur) to a grieving widow (Vanessa Paradis) who also happens to be an orthodox Jew, and he finds himself falling for her. Which upsets the neighbourhood watchman (Liev Schreiber) who’s feeling terribly friendzoned.
Turturro is as good on screen as he always is, but his writing leaves a lot to be desired. Characters are left to founder with motivations unexplained and unexplored, and we the audience must simply buy in to what they do because they do it. Little that happens is believable, and given the naturalistic style, that fact is impossible to move past.
If the lack of real character development isn’t enough, the script is also chock full of awkward dialogue that tries to imitate the cleverly balanced awkwardness of Allen himself, but just doesn’t at all manage it. There are interludes of mildly funny non-sequiturs scattered throughout that achieve little more than to force actual expositional lines into tiny, cramped rooms where blinding lights are shone on them so they crawl, blinking in the corner while a faceless script developer screams at them “WHAT DO YOU KNOW?”
All in all it’s a pretty inoffensive film (apart from Woody Allen being creepy to young women, which was, again, staggeringly ill-judged) but it is ineffectual. A comedy about the male sex trade could have looked at the differences in how men and women approach casual sex, and the similarities. It could have examined the effects of this particular late-in-life career change.
Unfortunately it does nothing so interesting. One women uses Fioravante because she’s angry at her husband, the other, because she’s lavish and loud (and Colombian) and just really likes this sort of fun. Fioravante himself never seems to question his new calling, and he does not change through committing to it, despite it being, all things considered, a pretty big deal.
It could have been about how people connect in a disconnected world. But it wasn’t and that’s a bit sad.