May 9, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Reivew: In 'Fading Gigolo,' professional Romeo undone by love

Woody Allen, left, and John Turturro star in the story of a basically broke and direction less man (Turturro) who becomes a professional Romeo in 'Fading Gigolo.' (Jojo Whilden)

“Fading Gigolo” does indeed fade, but its initial buoyant goofiness leaves a lingering glow.

It’s written and directed by John Turturro, who also stars as Fioravante, a book lover who works part time in a flower shop, a guy who’s basically broke and directionless.

One day his longtime buddy, book shop owner Murray (Woody Allen), offers up a proposal: His doctor (Sharon Stone) and her lover (Sofia Vergara) are looking to rent a gigolo for an amorous encounter. Is Fioravante up for the gig?

Eventually Murray suggests they go into business together, with Murray playing pimp and Fioravante professional Romeo. And so they do.

The sheer absurdity of the 78-year-old Allen turning to pimping late in life is comic gold. And, of course, Fioravante turns out to be a suave and caring Casanova. Business begins booming.

But then Murray sets Fioravante up with a widow, an orthodox Jew named Avigal (a luminous Vanessa Paradis). And when Fioravante can’t help falling for this fragile, lonely woman, love undercuts his mojo.

As sweet as the chaste romance between Fioravante and Avigal is, it throws the film off kilter. Eventually Murray is kidnapped by an orthodox Jew neighborhood watch officer (Liev Schreiber) and brought before some religious tribunal. Which gives Allen plenty of stuff to have fun with, but somehow the whole pimp-gigolo thing has been left behind.

Obviously Turturro doesn’t care how preposterous or loose his story is. He’s just trying to have fun with the characters while offering small insights into the nature of love and desire. Along the way he gives Allen his funniest role in years. “Fading Gigolo” may be far from perfect, but it’s near impossible to dislike.

'Fading Gigolo'

GRADE: B-

Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity

Running time: 90 minutes

tlong@detroitnews.com
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