Netflix UK film review: Fading Gigolo
James R | On 03, Oct 2014
Director: John Turturro
Cast: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Vanessa Paradis, Sofía Vergara
Watch Fading Gigolo online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Rakuten TV
“This is the end of an era, my friend, let me tell you.”
That’s Woody Allen at the start of Fading Gigolo. It certainly seemed like that was the case for Woody the actor – until 2012’s To Rome with Love, when he appeared in front of the camera for the first time in six years. Now, he’s back on-screen again as Murray, a man who persuades his younger friend Fioravante (John Turturro) to become a male prostitute.
Fioravante agrees. Why? Is it the money? Woody’s ageing charm? The prospect of a threesome with Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara? The fact that John Turturro wrote the film and is also directing might have something to do with it.
A guy making a film about himself having sex with gorgeous Hollywood stars? Much like Turturro’s nervous first-timer, Fading Gigolo doesn’t make a great first impression. He’s lucky, then, that he has a wingman to distract you: Allen, who clearly enjoys the chance to dish out one-liners again.
His fast-paced delivery is a familiar joy, even if many of the jokes don’t hit home, while the chance to see him not play a neurotic version of himself is a relief. Indeed, you could imagine a younger Allen pulling a Turturro – if you will – and coming up with a similar idea for a screenplay.
The surprise is that once it gets in the mood, Turturro’s script does have some substance beneath the sheets: one encounter with a widowed doctor, Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), ends with bodily fluids of a very different kind. Falling for Fioravante and he for her, their sad relationship soon attracts the attention of the Jewish local council – a showdown that feels more serious than silly and all the better for it.
Paradis and Turturro have good chemistry, as does Liev Schreiber, who plays a wannabe suitor for Avigal’s heart. Together, the three develop a shallow premise into an unexpectedly engaging story with real emotional depth. So it’s a shame that Turturro keeps cutting back to the bedroom; an uneven technique that leaves you unfulfilled between brief encounters.
While the amorous feelings may not last the whole night, though, sparks also fly when Turturro and Allen are on screen. The pair are out of a different movie, but they fit well enough together, an isolated pocket of bawdy humour away from the mature romantic drama. As we hop between the partners every few minutes, Fading Gigolo’s polygamous structure keeps you aroused, if not completely satisfied. As Allen strolls off screen once again, you’ll be be glad this particular affair is over, but the end of an era? That would be a mood-killer.
Fading Gigolo is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.