I guess John Turturro is a director. To my surprise, this is not his debut and he has worked on several other projects prior, some of them being quite acclaimed. Before I found out about this film I hadn’t a clue that he could work behind the camera, and honestly, I’m still a bit doubtful of his capabilities.
Fading Gigolo is a lighthearted romantic-comedy about a bookstore employee who turns to prostitution after he loses his job due to foreclosure. It is an interesting concept and one that I would be more than willing to watch unravel onscreen, but Fading Gigolo never quite rises above a couple of soft chuckles and shaking heads.
John Turturro plays the bookstore employee turned hooker and he plays it with a kind of tenderness that is unlike most of his roles. When I think of John Turturro, I think of a charismatic, funny, and over-the-top role, but Fading Gigolo shows him at his most subdued. Don’t mistake this as a complaint though, for he does play the role very elegantly, showing you what the true high point of this movie is. Woody Allen plays the bookstore owner turned pimp and he does an equally fine job at selling his character.
Have you ever had that movie experience where throughout the whole film you’re just waiting for something to actually happen? That’s how I felt with Fading Gigolo. This was a very uneventful movie. It is clearly divided up between three acts and sinks down into cliché far too often. This is mostly due to the poor script, which John Turturro wrote. You can tell it’s trying to create humor, but it just doesn’t work and only ends up crafting a few chuckles. It wants to be biting, but only manages to raise the bite to about as tender as its protagonist. I was consistently shaking my head and wondering, ‘Why would they say that?’ or ‘Why would they do that?’ I wish it were a bit sharper so it would at least be able to keep you involved. It was also very clumsy and cramped. There are several sub-plots that branch off of this story and they all seem so unnatural and don’t make much sense. I guess you have to fill that hour and a half running time somehow, right?
The same goes for the direction. John Turturro is a phenomenal performer, but on the other side of the camera, I’m a bit skeptical. I would have to ahead and say that Fading Gigolo is, in fact, childish. I can see where Turturro wanted this to go, but it never does make it even remotely close. It was much too romantic and sappy, when what it really needed was some vulgarity and, well, fun. This is the equivalent to The Wolf of Wall Street if it were brought down to a PG-13 or slight R. Would that really be anywhere close to as entertaining? I’m not even sure why it was rated R. There was no nudity and the F-word was said only once. Well, that’s the MPAA for you, am I right?
By the end of Fading Gigolo, you are left unsatisfied. The fine acting duo does up the quality a bit, but it is just not enough to keep this thing together and to sustain it for its 90 minute running time, which, to be honest, is actually a bit overlong. As I like to say, the one feeling that is worse than coming out of a movie in a storm of absolute hatred, is knowing that it could have been better, even in your own hands. Fading Gigolo is guilty of just that.