Fading Gigolo, which opened The Boulder International Film Festival in February and is now enjoying a theatrical run, begins in a truly unexpected fashion: a pimp and his hoe discussing business while packing up a used bookstore. The pimp, Murray (Woody Allen), offhandedly mentions that his dermatologist, Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), and her friend, Selima (Sofía Vergara), are looking for a guy to have a ménage-atrois. Murray is a bit old for the task, but he offers the services of his hoe, Fioravante ( John Turturro). A logical proposition, if Fioravante was a male prostitute, but he’s not. At least, not yet.
Fioravante takes the gig, and the role of gigolo fits him like a glove. Dr. Parker soon falls under his spell, as does Selima. With this success under his belt, Murray suggests that Fioravante take on a third client, Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), a young widow leading a lonely existence raising her children. Their first meeting tenderly shatters her world. No money is exchanged, no sex is involved, Fioravante simply caresses her bare back and for the first time, she realizes that she has never been touched. All three women want one thing: to be appreciated. Their existence and sexual desires have become habit. Fioravante changes all that by simply looking at them and touching them.
The premise of Fading Gigolo is utterly preposterous — in what world would a woman pay John Turturro for sex? Sofía Vergara and Sharon Stone want to have a three-way, but they can’t find a man to join in? They are willing to pay? All movies require the audience to suspend some amount of disbelief, but Fading Gigolo almost goes too far. Almost. It manages to remain plausible by existing in a world where husbands are indifferent to their wives, so the wives must take matters into their own hands. Dr. Parker explains that her husband is rarely home because he is a mountain climber. I’m inclined to believe that “mountain climbing” is innuendo for a mistress. Selima is starved for attention and Avigal is lonely and has always been. The answer to all three of their problems is Fioravante. He is funny, but not too much. He is well read and well cultured, but not in a snobbish manner. He can cook, but he doesn’t make a big deal about it. By trade he is a florist, a man used to getting his hands dirty, while maintaining a delicate touch. He may not be a matinee idol, but he is attractive to these women in a much more desirable way. He may not look like Don Draper, but Don Draper is an asshole. Fioravante is a perfect gentleman.
Fading Gigolo plays like a Woody Allen movie that just happens to be written, directed and starring John Turturro. The characters are well developed, the community is fully realized, there are plenty of good jokes and very little is wasted. Jazz music keeps the pace moving and most importantly, a touch of the absurd keeps the story interesting. The premise of a man taking on a second phase in life as a gigolo is preposterous, but what it reveals is honest.