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'Fading Gigolo' Full Of Loneliness And Longing


Actor John Turturro is known for his work in films like "Quiz Show" and "The Big Lebowski." With his long face and hang-dog look, he's probably not what you'd call a matinee idol. But he went ahead and cast himself as the title character in his new movie, "Fading Gigolo." And he cast Woody Allen as his pimp. Critic Bob Mondello says it's easy to imagine ways this concept might go terribly wrong, but it doesn't.

BOB MONDELLO: An Upper West Side book store has a going out of business sign in its window and a head clerk, Fioravante, who is packing up the shelves as his boss, Murray, fills the empty store with chatter.


WOODY ALLEN: (As Murray) I was at my dermatologist today, and she was with her girlfriend. And they came to the conclusion that they both wanted to have a menage.

JOHN TURTURRO: (As Fioravante) This came out of nowhere?

ALLEN: (As Murray) I don't know where. And she asked me, do I know anybody. I said yeah, but it'll cost you a thousand bucks. I was thinking of you.

TURTURRO: (As Fioravante) Me?

MONDELLO: This is a gag premise, maybe even one that makes you gag a little. But credit the script with understanding that.


TURTURRO: (As Fioravante) I am not a beautiful man.

ALLEN: (As Murray) Is Mick Jagger a beautiful man? You're an experienced lover. Why shouldn't you get paid for it? Of course, I saw myself getting a small fee.

MONDELLO: Fioravante resists at first, but without a job, he'll need the money. And so will Murray, with the bookstore closing. So when the take-charge but nervous dermatologist reaffirms her interest...


SHARON STONE: (As Dr. Parker) Maybe I should try your guy out first.

MONDELLO: Fioravante decides, what the hell?


STONE: (As Dr. Parker) You do this often?

TURTURRO: (As Fioravante) No.

STONE: (As Dr. Parker) So this is kind of a part-time thing?

TURTURRO: (As Fioravante) You could say that.

ALLEN: (As Murray) She tipped you?

TURTURRO: (As Fioravante) Mhmm.

ALLEN: (As Murray) You know, waitresses pool their tips and they split them.

MONDELLO: If you're thinking male fantasy on steroids, you're not wrong. But John Turturro, who wrote and directed "Fading Gigolo" in addition to starring in it, has conceived the promised menage a trois as a kind of delirious anticlimax, one he builds to with more nuanced stories about Murray's domestic situation with an African-American mom and four kids, about a Jewish neighborhood watch group that works with Brooklyn police and rabbinical courts and about a Hasidic widow, who brings all these threads together and becomes the innocent heart of "Fading Gigolo" when Murray introduces her to Fioravante, not for sex, but because widowhood has pulled her so utterly away from the world.

Woody Allen reportedly had a hand in helping Turturro refine the script, and together, they've succeeded in keeping the mood light even as the filmmaker is gently tugging the plot in other directions, to look at loneliness and longing and heartbreak, things that, if you think about it, are just what you'd expect to find in a film about a gigolo, though, perhaps not a film with as much charm and sweetness as "Fading Gigolo." I'm Bob Mondello.

MARTIN: Bob Mondello's review was first broadcast on All Things Considered this past week. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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