★★★★ | Fading Gigolo

Murray is about to close down his rare book store in New York that has been in his family for three generations. It will mean that he and his 50-something-year old assistant and life long friend Fiorovante will be unemployed and strapped for cash.

Murray however tells his pal that his wealthy female dermatologist had mentioned that she and a girl friend of hers had always fantasized about having a menage a trois. Not that she expected Murray, somewhere in his 70’s, to do this but she asked if he knew of a suitable candidate, and so he had suggested Fiorovante for the job. Not that he was particularly handsome or even muscular, but as the ladies were looking for a ‘real man’ Murray thought that he would be the perfect candidate. That, and the fact the doctor had offered a fee of $1000.

The reluctant Fioravante accepts the challenge as the other part time job he has in a florist shop barely keeps him in orchids. To his surprise he likes the trial run with the doctor, and so with Murray acting as his ‘pimp’, starts hooking up with other older women who are not getting any action from their husbands.

Meanwhile Murray lives with a much younger black woman and acts as a surrogate step-dad for her four young kids. When one of them contracts lice at school, he drags the kid off to see a head lice expert in Willamsburg. She is the widow of an Hasidic Rabbi and the mother of five young children that she is bringing up on her own. Murray sensing her loneliness and the lack of any adult companionship, suggests to her that he knows a ‘therapist’ who could help. The initial encounters between her and Fiorovante are awkward to say the least, but for some weird reason this very odd and ill-matched pair start to fall in love.

The Widow also has a fervent admirer in the shape of a neighborhood Hasidic cop who has been waiting for for two years for the right moment to make his move. Now as he notices her leaving the house regularly and going into the city, he follows her to find out what she is up too. Fearing the worse but really not knowing what exactly is going on he and his fellow cops abduct Murray and take him to an Orthodox Court to face charges that he is ruining the widow’s reputation in the hope that all will be revealed and/or she will be saved.

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It is one of the oddest plots for a comedy, which for reasons that I am still not totally clear about, actually works rather well. Even the far fetch concept of offering a young religious widow a roll in the hay was convincing, although the slapstick routine of the Courtroom was an uneasy fit in this otherwise gentle drama. The fact that writer/director/star John Turturro has his old chum Woody Allen playing Murray as Woody Allen is a major contributor to the success of the piece. Allen is perfect as the wisecracking opportunistic peddler who has no morals at all about making a quick buck especially when he doesn’t have to do much work for it at all. And Turturro with his sad soulful eyes and his gentle manner makes Fiorovanti the most perfect reluctant hooker.

They are joined by Sharon Stone as the very sexy frustrated dermatologist, Sofia Vergara as her friend (and for once there is no trace of her ‘Modern Family’ character Gloria), Liev Schrieber is the sulky cop, and with a beautifully understated performance as the widow by Vanessa Paradis who is really not on our screens nearly enough.

Turturro makes New York look so inviting and he greatly enhances the visuals with a beautifully scored soundtrack of vintage jazz, maybe a touch of Allen’s influence too.

A sweet and funny movie.

Fading Gigolo is released 23rd May