Written and directed by John Turturro, 'Fading Gigolo' is one of those rare Woody Allen appearances in a film that he didn't helm. However, the movie still feels very much like an Allen film in tone and spirit, meaning fans and followers of his should find much to like in Turturro's work.
The movie stars Turturro and Allen as two close friends. Allen plays Murray, the owner of a rare bookshop that is shutting down as the film begins. Turturro is his pal Fioravante, who is having problems of his own, working a couple days a week at a flower shop but struggling to make ends meet. During the closing of his bookstore, Murray relates a conversation he had with his dermatologist, Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), during which she brought up her desire to have a threesome with her girlfriend and another man. Murray had suggested to her that he might know someone who would be willing to do that…for the right price. The man Murray has in mind is, of course, Fioravante.
The two friends decide to give this wild premise a shot, with Fioravante charging $1,000 dollars for every encounter, and giving Murray 40 percent of the take. Naturally, this is a ridiculous premise for a movie – especially given that Jon Turturro is playing the male prostitue here, and even more so when the two women searching for a threesome are played by Sharon Stone and Modern Family's Sofía Vergara (yeah, like those two ladies would have trouble finding a man to entertain them) – but it does lead to some rather humorous moments in the movie, particularly ones involving Woody Allen, whose character is essentially Fiorvante's pimp in the film.
While the story starts out as if it's going to be more of a situational comedy, things take a turn to the more serious (and romantic) side when Murray sets Fioravante up with the widowed and Jewish Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), whom Fioravante finds himself attracted to. There's also a subplot involving a Hasidic officer of the Shomrim (a Jewish neighborhood watch in Brooklyn) named Dovi (Liev Schrieber), who has his own crush on Avigal and suspects that Murray and Fioravante may be up to no good.
'Fading Gigolo' moves along at a very brisk 90 minutes, meaning that not long after things get set up, the film is already well on its way to wrapping everything up. As funny as the premise might have been, Turturro seems more interested in exploring the topic of loneliness than going for the huge laughs. If there's one area that the director deserves credit for, it is not going for the typical, obvious Hollywood ending for his characters. As a result, the movie feels more realistic than it probably should, despite the rather unbelievable premise.
Because of how Turturro directs his film, I think that die-hard fans of Woody Allen's own movies will like 'Fading Gigolo' quite a bit. For the more casual movie fan, however, this is something worth taking a look at, but not something one is likely going to want to see more than once. It's a watchable enough film with some good acting in it, but it ultimately fails to take full advantage of either its premise or its talent.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Fading Gigolo' arrives on Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase, which houses the single-layer 25GB disc, with no inserts. A slipcover matching the artwork of the keepcase's slick slides overtop, with slightly embossed lettering for the movie's title. The disc is front-loaded with trailers for Rob the Mob, 'Good People', Parts Per Billion, and Life of a King. The main menu consists of a montage of footage from the movie, with menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
Potential buyers should note that Best Buy is offering an exclusive Blu-ray/DVD combo pack version of this release, with bonus content (which was unknown at the time of this review).
This Blu-ray is Region A locked.
'Fading Gigolo' was shot on 35mm film using Arricam equipment, although film grain will only be noticed if one has a particularly large screen – as it has been pushed way to the background of this Blu-ray release. Immediately evident in the picture quality is how warm it is – with deeply oversaturated colors and a look that leans heavily on the red/orange end of the color spectrum. Having not seen 'Fading Gigolo' in theaters, my assumption is that this is Director John Tutturro's intended look for the movie, and not in any way a defect in the digital transfer.
Despite the heavy saturation, there's a nice amount of detail that can be seen throughout the movie, and skin tones – while more reddish than one would like – are consistent throughout. About the only noticeable waver is between indoor and outdoor sequences, as the indoor shots seem to be slightly more reddish and slightly less detailed than the outdoor scenes. Black levels, however, are pretty strong throughout, and I could detect no noticeable issues with aliasing or other compression problems.
While it takes a few minutes to get adjusted to the look of Tutturro's movie, overall, this is a fairly nice transfer.
As you've probably guessed, 'Fading Gigolo' is primarily a 'talking heads' movie, with little in terms of action, or even a lot of ambient sounds. So the quality of the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track isn't immediately obvious, as almost all of the film's dialogue comes from the front of one's home theater set-up. However, when the soundtrack music kicks in (consisting mostly of non-original instrumentals and songs), the surrounds come to life.
While there's nothing spectacular about the lossless track, it serves its purpose – and there's no technical problems, such as dropouts or other types of glitches. There's not much in terms of directionality or immersiveness to the track, but that's more a result of what's happening on-screen than a fault of the audio.
An English 2.0 track is also available, as are subtitles in English SDH and Spanish.
John Turturro does a pretty good job of making a non-Woody Allen directed movie feel like a Woody Allen directed movie with 'Fading Gigolo'. While it's far from 'laugh-out-loud funny' (despite that very quote appearing from another critic on the box cover), it's a pleasant enough watch. In particular, fans of Allen should enjoy this film, as his character gets all the best lines and is, in many ways, the star of the movie. For most, though, this isn't something you're likely to watch more than once. Rent It.