• Fading Gigolo

    Released by: Millennium Entertainment
    Released on: August 19th, 2014.
    Director: John Turturro
    Cast: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara
    Year: 2014
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    The Movie:

    FADING GIGOLO is a film starring and directed by John Turturro, although you would be forgiven for assuming that it’s the new Woody Allen picture (I certainly was fooled when I first saw the theatrical trailer). Although one cannot simply accuse Turturro of creating a derivative picture, FADING GIGOLO wears its central influence on its sleeve: the New York setting, the jazz-inflected soundtrack, a satirical look Jewish themes, the non-traditionally attractive male protagonist who exudes sex appeal, and a supporting performance by Allen himself. The big question is whether or not the film has anything of worth to offer outside of a slick homage to a brilliant comic filmmaker.

    John Turturro plays Fioravante, a man whose part-time job in a flower shop offers him barely enough money to pay his rent. His best friend Murray (Woody Allen) is also in dire economic straits, having been forced to close his rare book shop. While Fioravante is helping Murray to close shop, he proposes an unorthodox solution to both of their money problems – Fioravante should take up being a gigolo, and Murray will act as his “manager” (read: pimp). Fioravante initially balks at the idea, blurting out that he’s far from a traditional Don Juan figure, but Murray insists that he has sex appeal.

    Indeed, Fioravante’s first customer is Murray’s dermatologist Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), who’s not only interested in cheating on her husband but doing it in style; she wants to have a ménage-a-toi with her friend Selima (the lovely Sofía Vergara) but she wants to “test out” the prospective male partner herself. The encounter goes so well that Murray scrambles to find more clients for his friend, one of which is a lonely young Hasidic widow named Avigal (Vanessa Paradis). Avigal and Fioravante become infatuated with each other, and this blossoming romance catches the jealous eye of Dovi (Liev Schreiber), a community patrol officer for the Hasidic community where Avigal lives.

    There are a lot of good things that one can say about FADING GIGOLO. For one thing, it looks great for a low-budget film; Turturro is not a flashy filmmaker but he’s a competent craftsman. The performances are also uniformly good, although it should be noted that Sharon Stone and Sofía Vergara are not given that much to do. Allen is always great to watch and given that this will probably be one of his last starring roles it’s worth a viewing for that alone. The action moves along at a brisk pace and there are some amusing scenes near the conclusion with a Jewish tribunal that’s right out of an early Allen picture. It's also perhaps something of an accomplishment that the film gets away with convincing the viewer that John Turturro is a convincing gigolo.

    FADING GIGOLO is a decent comic romance but it’s not a great film – the main culprit is the script, which lacks the dialogue flourishes that make Woody Allen’s films so memorable. Even when the latter was directing such tossed-off fluff as CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION and HOLLYWOOD ENDING (nobody’s idea of quintessential Allen films), there were memorable lines and believable dialogue. Here the humor emerges out of the quirky concept rather than witty dialogue; if you find the premise funny you’ll likely enjoy the film, but it’s ultimately nothing more than a diverting time-waster. If it sounds like I’m focusing too much on Woody Allen it’s because the film will likely appeal to that demographic. John Turturro has done better work elsewhere and although he’s the writer, director and star here he still gets overshadowed by Allen.


    FADING GIGOLO comes to blu-ray courtesy of Millennium Entertainment. The film is presented in a 1080p transfer in its 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Although I was not bowled over by the story and dialogue, Turturro shot this movie on film and it looks fantastic: great detail throughout, warm and inviting colors and strong black levels. There's absolutely zero glitches or blemishes to report.

    The main audio track is a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track and like the image quality is a sterling, if not exactly busy, affair – what else can one really expect from the dialogue-heavy action of FADING GIGOLO? The surround speakers wake up when music occurs in the soundtrack but otherwise there’s some quiet ambient noise for a subtle immersive experience. There are also English SDH and Spanish Subtitles on the disc: a cursory examination of the former revealed no typos.

    There are two supplements on the Blu-ray. The first is a series of about half a dozen “Deleted Scenes,” although this is really a misnomer since some of them are just false takes. There’s nothing of any real substance here; some of the extended scenes were obviously clipped to make the film's narrative tighter. The main extra is a commentary track with John Turturro, accompanied by his assistant Cameron Bossert. The two men talk easily about the project and there’s very little dead air to contend with.

    The Final World:

    FADING GIGOLO looks, sounds and feels like a Woody Allen film, but it’s missing that “spark.” John Turturro has delivered a fairly good picture but I doubt there’s much replay value. Millenium Entertainment’s disc looks and sounds good. Interested parties should rent but keep their expectations grounded.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!