In the pile of movie reviewing filters, the word “unlikely” is a curious one. It’s a kind of descriptive that wants to make promises but knows it can’t. It’s a kind of experience that can work for you, if you let it. An unlikely film, if it’s good, doesn’t maneuver you into suspending disbelief (a mainstay of movie resonance), it just stirs in the movie making and storytelling ingredients it has at hand. It offers a somehow fresh and appropriate film.
“Fading Gigolo” is an unlikely film in many ways. It stars Woody Allen, perfectly miscast as a pimp and John Turturro, sweetly miscast as a 50-ish lover worth $1000 a pop. (Turturro wrote and directed the film as well.) It carries a tilted yet balanced sensibility about friendship and sexual context and cultural structure in a somewhat intentional mish mash. Its variable tone takes itself too seriously and not seriously enough. It twists a popular movie theme -- the prostitute with a heart of gold – into a shape that never could have been thought up, much less financed.
Not incidentally, there’s a cop angle and a court angle to the plot that stretches unlikelihood a little further. Should I mention that part of this takes place in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of the film?
Even the film title seems misappropriated. The gigolo wasn’t one before and the arc of his gigolosity evolves rather than fades. Like the film, however, the title is somehow catchy and effective.
To Woody Allen’s credit, he doesn’t much care whether people like him or his brand of cinema. While “Fading Gigolo” is John Turturro’s movie through and through, Woody’s presence and influence are obvious. Turturro’s less famous brand bears an analogous kind of – uh oh, here’s that word again – unlikely confidence that is worth a movie goer’s benefit of any doubt.
Labeling a film “unlikely” may keep some people from seeing it, and maybe it should. Though the term fits, I think it’s likely that most people who see “Fading Gigolo” will like it.