Since his first ever screenplay was butchered at the hands of a production company when it hit cinemas in 1965, Woody Allen vowed to always direct films that he’d written so that he felt in control of the final result. He also rarely appears in films unless he’s had a hand in the filmmaking process. Because of this, it was a surprise to see him star alongside John Turturro in comedy flick ‘Fading Gigolo’, a film which Turturro this time writes and directs. The flimsy plot follows florist Fioravante (Turturro) as he embarks on a new career path, led into the seedy male prostitution game by the not-so-retiring bookshop owner Murray Schwartz (Allen). Building to take part in a ménage à trois, will Fioravante pursue his controversial lifestyle or will he leave it behind for the widowed love interest Avigal?
Turturro is best known for his association with the works of the Coen brothers, but his latest is undeniably influenced by the back catalogue of his co-star. His New York is viewed through Allen-tinted frames, the city captured cosily and welcoming, home to witty Jewish ramblings over a jazz laden score. The bond between the two leads is amusing, and the script at times is done very well as Murray and Fioravante take on new aliases Dan Bongo and Virgil Howard respectively and converse over their joint venture. This provides the perfect scenario for Allen’s comic delivery and he is on fine form, but the sub-plots surrounding feel forcefully out of sync, and don’t flow with nearly as much effortlessness. Other characters lack any depth, and the romantic angle is skewed to the point that it is difficult to care whether he gets the girl or not by the end.
In John Turturro’s apparent vision to create a Woody Allen-esque picture, he’s succeeded, but has unfortunately made an average one. He has got a great performance out of Allen, and puts in a good leading turn himself but has sadly discarded everything else, leaving the film a little soulless. Sharon Stone and Liev Schreiber play unimaginative stereotypes and are rather wasted in their roles. Niggles aside, it’s refreshing to see Allen stepping out from behind the typewriter for a change and making us laugh so if you’re a fan of his humour, ‘Fading Gigolo’ is definitely worth a look.