By Megan Bianco
There comes a point in some renowned actors’ careers when they feel the desire or inspiration to try a hand behind the camera. For former child stars like Ron Howard, Jodie Foster and Sarah Polley, a new talent can be discovered and multiply their success for years to come.
Others, such as Charles Laughton or Robert De Niro, only make one or two attempts, but still leave a lasting impression on audiences. Others have to remind viewers that they’ve experimented outside of acting. This year, character actor John Turturro delivers his fourth directorial effort with Fading Gigolo, now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Gigolo begins with an elderly bookshop owner named Murray (Woody Allen) in the process of permanently closing his store with his employee and old friend Fioravante (Turturro). Murray mentions that while having one of his regular visits with Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), she randomly declares that she and her girlfriend Selima (Sofía Vergara) want to try a menage a trois. Murray explains to Fioravante that he would be a good fit for the experience, and not only with the two women, but as a regular Don Juan of sorts. With Murray as Fioravante’s would-be pimp, the duo embark on a subtle venture for interested women. That is until Fioravante falls for a lonely widow named Avigal (Vanessa Paradis).
Liev Schreiber co-stars as Avigal’s overprotective neighbor. Allen himself has arguably made the most successful transition from in front of the camera to behind it, with his early years as a comedian to now being primarily a filmmaker. Here in Gigolo, he takes a rare acting job in another director’s movie, and it seems to be as a favor for Turturro (who began his film career in Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters). Murray is quite clearly written for no one else but Allen, as he is his usual neurotic Jewish screen persona, and often steals the scenes. Sometimes it’s hard to remember the film is directed by Turturro and not Allen.
Stone and Vergara are also in familiar roles as the attractive, sexually-active women that the audience is used to seeing them as, but French celebrity Paradis surprisingly makes her American cinema debut against type as a conservative mother and widow. Despite the impressive cast Turturro pulled together for his brainchild and the potential for a humorous tale of courtship, Fading Gigolo misses the mark by a bit. Though there are some pretty entertaining scenes between Allen and Turturro, and between the latter and the women, the dialogue comes across as amateurish in a few scenes, and the story structure and character development get lost by the time the third act rolls around. There are a couple of interesting sequences about racial themes in the neighborhood in which the film is set, but they belong in a better film.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.
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