Fading Gigolo – film review

Woody Allen is delightful in this curious film from John Turturro

Woody Allen and John Turturro in 'Fading Gigolo'

The past looms over this shapeless curio directed by actor John Turturro, specifically the early 1990s. That was the era which Turturro made his name in the films of Spike Lee, and Lee’s Brooklyn brownstone dramas are an obvious cue here. The setting is Williamsburg, but free of the hip kids who have colonised the area for at least a decade. Instead, all in sight still belongs to the Hasidim. Turturro fudges his own ethnicity, but makes himself the star anyway, beginning a new life when an old boss proposes he service women for money.

The dusty pimp is played by Woody Allen. Cruel as it sounds, the very best moments here feel like outtakes from Allen’s minor later movies. Scriptwriter too, Turturro casts himself as “one of those guys who looks better naked”, a deadpan man of few words who could be thinking of grouting while professionally engaged. It’s never clear how much the mere idea of this 50-something lunk as paid Romeo is meant to be funny, but the clients are cartoons. Sharon Stone flails as a sex-mad dermatologist; Vanessa Paradis, playing a rabbi’s widow, is intended as ethical fibre. Allen, oddly, is delightful – every crumpled line-reading flawlessly timed. Otherwise, the rhythm is so off that if you tried to dance to it you would turn an ankle.

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