Review: Fading Gigolo (Wilting Flower Salesman)

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Manhattan’s economy is forcing one florist’s head down—and Woody Allen figures that head might as well land in a soft place.

Fading Gigolo is John Turturro’s fifth directorial effort and the most amiable of them all. It’s not excessively jubilant like Nepalese musical Passione or as torn about infidelity as Romance & Cigarettes. Instead Fading Gigolo is reaching for the brand of romance that’s so far from home/so close to Hollywood. Yes, this gigolo does his duty but as a man selling what women want: a form of attention that can’t be shown onscreen. It’s a bit of a contradiction, but everyone’s having too much fun to argue.

When Murray (Woody Allen) says he knows a rich and lonesome therapist (Sharon Stone) it only takes one successful trick to start Floravante’s new career as an upscale hustler. Turturro is shockingly masculine: quiet, patient, sensitive—frankly it’s surprising. He might be the last person you’d cast as a man-whore but he’s the first to make the job seem plausible. Sofia Vergara enters as Sharon Stone’s reference-turned-competitor while Vanessa Paradis (Johnny Depp’s ex) is the literally untouchable orthodox widow with a vulnerability that woos the wooer.

The moral complications of selling sex aren’t addressed. Instead the “cost of hooking” is paid by Floravante’s masculinity—somehow being on the taking side of commerce is neutering. As women more commonly ply the world’s oldest professional, the economy of romance has never really navigated the The Gigolo, and frankly this film contributes even less to the dialogue then Midnight Cowboy, but it’s not really trying.

Will it end in light heartache? Naturally, but the biggest takeaway from Fading Gigolo is that romance is everywhere and those who suffer do so because something keeps them from seeing it, and isn’t that just what movies are for? Jogging our memories?

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