Woody Allen and a gigolo worth paying for


In my favourite recurring dream, I get a call from casting director Juliet Taylor asking me to be in Woody Allen’s next untitled feature. Naturally, I accept without even bothering to inquire about the role as I would happily play “woman at bus stop” if it meant spending time with my hero.

I can only imagine that actor/director John Turturro felt much the same when Woody agreed to star in Turturro’s own Fading Gigolo, and all the more so because he gets to act alongside the great auteur and they are dynamite together.
Turturro has talked about Woody’s involvement with the script which, as expected, consisted of brutal, uncensored criticism but, in a story that required him to play a pimp, he surely earned the right to tweak and prune the dialogue.

As a result, the Allenised draft is hilarious and could easily be one of Woody’s own bitter-sweet comedies. It’s a simple enough plot with Allen cast as Murray, a rare-book dealer who has gone mechullah.
In order to make ends meet, he encourages his friend Fioravante (Turturro), a gentle, part-time florist, to agree to a ménage à trois with his dermatologist (Sharon Stone) and her adventurous Latin girlfriend (Sofia Vergara of Modern Family) for the sum of $1,000.

The poor florist is by no means an obvious choice for a mission (missionary?) that most men would pay to embark upon, but pal Murray convinces him he has sex appeal and with his new moniker — Virgil — he evolves into a ladies’ man.

You can see what Turturro was thinking when he penned a script that put him in bed beside a semi-clad Sharon and Sofia, while Woody roamed the New York streets below.

So much for team work. Things get complicated when Murray decides to add Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), the lonely widow of a Chasidic rabbi, to their client list and Fioravante falls for her, oblivious to the fact that she is being pursued by Dovi (Liev Schreiber), an ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn-based policeman of sorts who wears tzitit under his uniform.

At this juncture, it would be reasonable for you to think that the screenplay is the work of a rambling lunatic, but please reserve judgment until you have seen it because the mad story glistens with laughter, sentiment and more Woody than a fan can hope for. It’s a film that fits him as well as one of his own.

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