“You want to turn me into a ‘ho?”
That’s John Turturro speaking to Woody Allen in Turturro’s oddball comedy romance and, yes, that’s precisely what Allen’s character is proposing: a side business for the fuzzy-haired part-time florist, with Sharon Stone as his first client.
Well, sure, why not?
Actually, that’s a very big why not and we’re asked to buy into some even wilder unlikelihoods in “Fading Gigolo,” but if you can set that aside — along with the vanity of Turturro having cast himself, un-ironically, as a lady’s man supreme — there are things to enjoy here. If you’re not particular about plausibility, that is.
Allen plays Murray, an antiquarian bookshop owner in New York, whose business has been sunk by the Internet. Writer/director Turturro is Fioravante, a middle-aged, under-employed bachelor who speaks little but has an innate understanding of orchids — and women. So, when Murray’s dentist Dr. Parker (Stone) confides to him one day that she wants to try a ménage a’ trios with her gal pal Selima (Sofia Vergara of TV’s “Modern Family”), Murray volunteers Fioravante’s services. For a $1,000 fee. Minus 20 percent for himself, of course.
Personally, I spent the next half hour mourning the fact that I’ve never gotten much more than commentary on the weather from my dentists, but then, I’ve never lived in New York. The important thing is that Fioravante takes the job, primarily to help Murray out, and proceeds to rock Dr. Parker’s world. Not in the pornographic sense, but the old-fashioned romantic one, with dancing, manly reserve and undivided attention.
Soon, they’re in business and the money is starting to roll in until Murray decides, for some incomprehensible reason, to pitch Fioravante to the lonely widow of a Hasidic rabbi (Vanessa Paradis), who is loved from afar by a Hasidic neighborhood patrolman (Liev Schreiber). Precipitating numerous romantic and comedic complications ensue.
Turturro takes the writing credit, but Allen provided major input as the story developed, meaning that “Fading Gigolo” often plays like the sort of comedy romance Allen was turning out 30 or 40 years ago — minus his zingier dialogue. The mood is much the same, in other words, and that’s a good thing. The difference being that it was easy to accept the romanticized New York Allen created while this one hardly ever rings true.
Though maybe that’s just the opinion of a guy who has never inspired erotic confidences from dentists.