“The image of an aged Woody Allen facing down a tribunal of stone-faced rabbis near the end of Fading Gigolo is probably a keeper,” begins Adam Nayman in Cinema Scope, “and whatever else one might say about John Turturro’s film, it deploys its septuagenarian special guest star to superb effect. To wit: Woody here is playing the amateur pimp to Turturro’s fading gigolo, and the contrast between the two actors—one pushy and verbose, the other hulking and dumbstruck—plays out as a comic Cartesian divide.”
“It may not be an act of enormous modesty, but director John Turturro’s decision to cast himself as an astonishingly-gifted male prostitute proves a good call in this comedy curio, the most charming film at Toronto this year,” writes the Guardian‘s Catherine Shoard. “Fioravante’s [Turturro] first client: Allen’s dermatologist, played by Sharon Stone, on fruitcake form, forever knocking back shots in her penthouse, giving callers the full Basic Instinct and snuggling up to girlfriend Sofia Vergara, who also samples Fioravante’s wares. Another potential customer is Hasidic Jew Avigal (the inescapably French Vanessa Paradis), a widow with six children, imprisoned in her strict neighborhood, swamped with loneliness. She weeps when Fioravante tries to touch her, but a connection has been made and before long she’s back to his flat for supper.”
“If you can accept the ethnic roundelay, Fading Gigolo is, in its own Martian way, a pretty tender film about loneliness and the need for human connection,” writes Ben Kenigsberg at the AV Club. “And if you can set aside the blithe treatment of sex work or the borderline-offensive caricaturing of the Hasidic community… there’s a delicacy to the dynamic between Turturro and Paradis that’s endearing despite the pairing’s ludicrousness.”
“The one thing missing is a tight script to tie it all up,” finds Dan Fainaru in Screen Daily. “Instead it is left with a gaping soft belly between the bright premise of the first act and the Seinfeld-type epilogue.”
And “as much as we love Woody Allen,” writes the Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth, “and as effortless as he is here, the comedic elements of Gigolo are actually the least effective. It’s certainly not unfunny, just mildly amusing at best.”
“It’s a small, unassuming film and not sexy despite the presence of some very beautiful women,” writes Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter. “Fading Gigolo has a very New York indie feel and most of the settings, especially the messy, tight apartments and lamented bookstore, are places Allen could have inhabited or filmed in 40 years ago. The jazz score further amplifies the throwback feel.”
Update, 9/11: Millennium Entertainment has acquired all U.S. rights, reports James Hiler for Indiewire.
Update, 9/12: “The slightest film I’ve seen at Toronto so far is also the loveliest,” writes the Boston Globe‘s Ty Burr. “This is the most confident of Turturro’s directing jobs and one of his tenderest performances; at times the movie’s a mess, but it goes to such special places that you don’t mind.”
Updates, 9/14: “Fading Gigolo originated as an informal sketch by Turturro, who then developed the character, Fioravante, into this unexpectedly mature script with extensive feedback from Allen,” notes Variety‘s Peter Debruge. “Traces of silliness remain, as when Allen’s old Jewish bookseller, Murray Schwartz, adopts the name ‘Bongo’ as his pimpin’ new street handle, but the pleasant surprise here is how seriously Turturro takes the emotional side of the concept.”
And the Guardian‘s Catherine Shoard has a good long talk with Turturro.
Updates, 9/17: “With any other director,” writes Wesley Morris at Grantland, “this might be the most vain of vanities, but Turturro is the only sensualist American movies have. He’s a lover. He loves women. He loves the idea of loving them, too. I don’t know whether gigolos are a fantasy for middle-aged women, but if Turturro came a-knocking, you’d surprise yourself by letting him in.”
On the other hand, Jordan Hoffman at Film.com: “Fading Gigolo wants to be some sort of sunny tapestry about New York’s social groups, but it’s impossible to see past its absurd premise. It is among the most shameless vanity projects I’ve ever seen.”