Director: John Turturro
Cast: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sofia Vergara, Sharon Stone and Vanessa Paradis
Running Time:90 minutes
Release Date: May 23rd
John Turturro is a gigolo and Woody Allen is his pimp. You can’t accuse writer/director Turturro of using a well-worn idea. For all the outlandishness of such a premise, the film itself can’t make its mind up on whether or not it is a quirky sex comedy or a melancholic look at loneliness. Sadly the film ends up being neither.
The film sees Allen playing Murray, a bookshop owner whose shop is closing down. His dermatologist Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone) mentions that she and her friend (Sofía Vergara) are looking for a man to take part in a threesome, Murray mentions his friend Fioravante (Turturro) a part-time florist could do the job. With some hesitation he agrees and soon he and Murray are in business satisfying lonely middle-aged women across Brooklyn. Fioravante soon starts to fall for an ultra-Orthodox rabbi’s widow Avital (Vanessa Paradis), and their time together starts to arouse the suspicions of her community in particular a local policeman (Liev Schreiber) who is smitten with Avital himself.
One problem that usually arises when an actor writes a role for themselves that portrays them as desirable love makers, is that it more often then not ends up coming across as nothing more than a vanity project and that certainly is the case here. They are several occasions where the purpose of the dialogue only serves to talk about the prowess of Fioravante, with one scene with Stone and Vergara that is so dedicated to Fioravante’s amazing abilities it would make Bechdel test-monitoring machine explode.
There is also some very dubious sexual politics in the film with the portrayal of being a male sex worker being shown as pure male fantasy. Despite some niggling doubts about the morality of what they are doing, their actions are shown without any real consequences and with very little dept. On the other hand, their clients, apart from Avital who crucially hires Fioravante for a massage rather than sex, are shown as comically pathetic. This is most glaring in the character of Dr. Parker, who at one point rings up Vergara’s character while gobbling down a packet of crisps to stop her some sleeping with Fioravante because she has trouble sharing. It appears that while a man getting paid for sex can have almost no repercussions, a woman paying for sex is somewhat pitiful.
What lets the film down however is that it can’t make its mind up on what it wants to be. There is essentially two films going on here, one is the sex comedy while the other is a sombre meditation on grief and loneliness within a conservative community. Neither of the storylines gel together, with the shift between the two becoming quite jarring as the film develops. However the performances of Allen and Paradis in each of the storylines are pretty good. Allen, playing a more relaxed version of his on screen persona, provides some of the films few laughs, while Paradis gives the film some tenderness that grounds the film in a somewhat emotional reality. Turturro himself portrays his character as a passive, silent type who doesn’t give us much to engage with and at times makes him appear slightly unlikable.
Neither of these storylines comes to any satisfying conclusion however and at the end of it all you may end up thinking what was the point of the film actually was. From here it appears to be that John Turturro is the answer to lonely women’s needs and I don’t know how large your suspension of disbelief needs to be to go along with that.