Fading Gigolo review: Twilight for middle-aged men

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Fading Gigolo red light

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film that looks more like the filmmaker’s midlife-crisis wish-fulfillment fantasy than this one.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

You know how it happens. A beautiful, wealthy woman — a doctor — happens to mention, offhand, just out of the blue, to one of her patients that she and her even more gorgeous, even more rich friend are just dying to have a threesome. And the patient, who just happens to be Woody Allen, naturally thinks to pimp out his florist pal, John Turturro, to them. Cuz who couldn’t use a little extra dough? Same old story, really.

Did I mention that this is written and directed by Turturro?

This is like Twilight for middle-aged men, in which prostitution is an adventure and getting paid tons of money for having lots of sex with beautiful women — no fat chicks! no dogs! — is all in a day’s fun. It’s about having Sofía Vergara (Machete Kills, The Three Stooges), as the rich doctor’s friend, stroking Turturro’s ego, cooing that because he’s “not pretty” that makes him a “real man.” There’s nothing wrong with John Turturro (Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Cars 2), of course: he’s a perfectly attractive guy, with talent that makes him even more attractive (and presumably he’s wealthy himself), so this all rather reeks unpleasantly of outlandish desperation. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film that looks more like the filmmaker’s midlife-crisis wish-fulfillment fantasy than this one.

Woody Allen (Hollywood Ending, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion) as Murray, florist Fioravante’s pimp, is just plain gross. Having to watch him woo various people, from Fioravante, who initially needs some convincing to take on this new job, and his prospective clients, is not fun. What worse is that I think it’s supposed to be charming and witty.

Fortunately, the weirdly overbearing jazzy score — perhaps lifted from a Woody Allen movie and featuring many jarring shifts in actual and figurative tone — distracts from that. As does the Hasidic slapstick. (Hopefully, I will never have to use the term “Hasidic slapstick” ever again.)

I would say there’s at least something positive in how the film acknowledges that “older” women still like sex. Yeah, Vergara is over 40, which is Hollywood-old, and the doctor is played by 50something Sharon Stone (Bobby, Basic Instinct 2), which makes her a hideous crone in the eyes of the movie industry. (She looks amazing here. I’m not calling her a crone. She’s awesome.) But then Turturro has to go and undercut that with his subplot about a Hasidic widow (Vanessa Paradis: Heartbreaker), who is being stalked by Liev Schreiber’s (Movie 43, The Reluctant Fundamentalist) cop — he has watched her from afar, which is how he knows he loves her; later, this will win her over (ugh) — and groomed by Murray for Fioravante’s services (yuck). For the culmination of the subplot is that even though Fioravante can have as much sex as he wants with gorgeous sexy wanton women — and get paid for it! — he discovers that he’s much more attracted to the modest, chaste woman. The widow isn’t quite a virgin — she has children, after all — but we are made to understand in no uncertain terms that she was never sexually satisfied, or even awakened, by her departed husband.

As is completely unsurprising, there are multiple men here lamenting that women are so mysterious and who can tell what they want? After we wake these men up from their overwhelmed faints with smelling salts, perhaps we should let them know that a good start might be: Don’t make a virtue out of being turned off by women who are more sexually aggressive or adventurous or just plain experienced than you are yourselves. That’s a very strange place for a romanticized fantasy of prostitution to end up, and it stinks of an old-fashioned double standard that has no place in the world at large, and certainly not in a story like this one.

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Thu, Apr 24, 2014 6:42pm

The trailer for this pushed my “I don’t care who’s in it, it sounds like yet another middle-aged male wish fulfillment fantasy” button.

Vanessa Paradis is 41. But I’m not at all convinced that this helps.

“You always want what you can’t have” might not have been a bad plot, if hackneyed, but when the protagonist ends up getting everything he wants that’s rather undercut.

Tonio Kruger
Fri, Apr 25, 2014 3:27am

Woody Allen — the creator of Manhattan — made a middle-aged male wish fulfillment fantasy?! Get out of town!

Wed, May 14, 2014 12:37am

This movie sounds really disgusting. But your review was highly entertaining. I thank you for that.