I think crime pays. The hours are good, you meet a lot of interesting people, you travel a lot.

— Woody Allen

This is important: “Fading Gigolo” is not a Woody Allen movie. This movie belongs to the great John Turturro from scene one.

The Woody we know and love is at the center, of course, and makes it all perfect, but he’s not at the wheel, he’s in the passenger seat. What we get, finally, inevitably, is an aging Woody, creaky but crackly and still the genius in Buddy Holly glasses.

Here, Woody plays Murray, a Williamsburg, Brooklyn book seller, who has been drowned by the tsunami of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Murray lives in his childhood hood, with his 40-ish black girlfriend (Jill Scott) and a clutter of tiny children, who seem to love Woody and even imitate his comedic style. How all this came to be is of course, none of our business.

Times are tough, social security and Medicare can’t cover bagels and lox and clothes for the kids. Murray has an idea to turn the tide. He will become a senior pimp to an elite class of horny rich women looking for love in the afternoon.


Excuse me? Pimp? Woody? What?

Of course a pimp needs a “Ho.” So Murray turns to his best friend, a neighborhood florist named Fioravante. Enter actor/director John Turturro.

Our Fior has a quiet life arranging floral designs and minding his own business. But apparently, Woody, who needs someone to pimp for, knows that Fior is the guy.

At first, Fior scoffs, laughs, dismisses. But the corsage biz is down, and pasta prices are up. He looks at his checkbook and Murray’s economic dilemma. Why not? Life is short. Use the good bowl, and Fior apparently has a terrific bowl.

Murray has his first client all set up: his dermatologist. An aging Jewish bookseller has a dermatologist? And it’s Sharon Stone? Oy vey. We should all be so lucky.

But with Woody as a fading pimp, I guess we can go anywhere. Are you ready for the handsome leading action man Liev Schreiber as a sweet, but suspicious Hasidic cop, working the streets of his neighborhood? Surprise. With his orthodox adornments and badge, It’s one of his best jobs.


Things could go very awry with such a stew of characters bumping into one another, but we are in the hands of John Turturro (“The Big Lewbowski,” “O’Brother, Where Art Thou?”)

Turturro, with his slightly off kilter mouth and big soulful, but wise eyes, emerges here as a kind of Flatbush Fellini, with a street full of familiar Brooklyn faces designed to surprise us.

We’re back to Murray, always the hustler, who sets up a tryst with Sharon. Fior arrives like a cool sexual hit man, in dark suit and smooth Neapolitan moves. He, and the equally cool skin doctor blend softly and smoothly, like a riff from Stan Getz’s “Early Autumn.” Cool becomes the new hot. The scene, in fact the whole picture, is shot by Marco Pontecorvo in hazy, brownish autumn light on the leaf scattered streets of Brooklyn. What could go wrong? Autumn in movies always gives the impression that something, like summer, is going to come to an end. We wait for it.

The espresso percolates when the jazzy Sofia Vergara floats in as Stone’s best friend, eager for a threesome with Fior. Sofia Vergara and Sharon Stone paying for sex? You’ve accepted Woody as an aging pimp. What’s your problem?

A third party will flow smoothly into this cocktail in the sweet, mysterious Avigal (a seductive and haunting Vanessa Paradis, French singer, model and the mother of Johnny Depp’s children.) Avigal is the lonely young widow of a neighborhood rabbi. She has been smoldering in the shadows of the this urban shtetl, for sometime. We smell smoke.

Avigal only longs for a gentle touch from Fior, not play for pay. So they share a luncheon where Avigal prepares a fish dish, de boning it with precise seductive moves, carving and serving it to Fior’s plate with delicate fingers, while neither of them take their eyes from each other. Yes, cuisine as foreplay and it’s golden.


A bubble of trouble: Schreiber, who grew up with, and has long ached for Avigal, forms a posse of fellow neighborhood cops, kidnaps our pimp Murray, and takes him before an upstairs tribunal of three hilarious elderly rabbis, to uncover what’s been going on in the hood. This is where it becomes pure Woody with a touch of Marx Brothers, and where Turturro’s script gives Woody the lines he’s been waiting to score with.

Turturro is a skillful director with a delicate touch. He wisely persuades Stone and Vergara to play softly on the lower white keys, so we get a Stone without the “Casino” histrionics and Vergara without her Carmen Miranda castanets and Chiquita Banana schtick.

Turturro’s “Fading Gigolo,” while not a masterpiece, is a wonderful and fun early summer antipasto with a matzoh touch. Bon appetite, L’chaim.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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