Too often, films use their genre to convey off-putting social attitudes that seem to have come from the last century. Fading Gigolo is one of them. Murray, character played by Woody Allen, or rather Woody Allen playing himself under the name of Murray, talk his friend Fioravente (John Turturro) into selling love services to women. Supposedly the answer to the closure of Murray’s family business, a bookshop opened two generations before, the money made by Fioravente quickly disappear from the overall film narration, creating nothing but unhealthy situations.
Romantic comedy, Fading Gigolo presents Fioravente as a modern Prince Charming, a saviour of the poor and vulnerable ladies he encounters. The film completely refutes the idea of a man selling himself but also, and mainly, the idea that women can buy time with a man for the only purpose of seeking the enjoyment offered by such trades. Women in Fading Gigolo are either in serious need of affection or complete nymphomaniac clichés, dangerous man-eaters. Whilst the film is supposed to depict a male prostitute, the narration actually reverses the situation and stigmatises women as objects of desires. Is it normal to found a woman in high heels and underwear, eating chocolate on a sofa after her little session, whilst the man is already dressed into his day-to-day clothes? Worst, during the only sexe scene of the film, the infamous ménage à trois, Fioravente is being asked by the cougars if they should do it for free, as if it was the women offering their services to him, as a gift.
In between the multiple bourgeoises depicted, there is Avigal, played by the French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis. Avigal is a Jewish widow in deep mourning who cut herself out of love of any kind. Probably the worst figure in the film, she is the embodiment of the mother, the pure lady. She seeks the services of Fioravente as a ‘therapy’ and actually spends time with the man rather than asking for intimate encounters. Thus presenting herself as the heroine of the film, the only one who respects herself by not falling for the man, she directly reinforces the misogynous categorization of women into being either ‘virgins’ or ‘whores’.
The film constantly juggles with cliché. Avigal regularly looks like Johannes Vermeer’s milkmaid, which, curiously enough, also turns out to be used for a popular French yoghurt brand. As if it wasn’t sufficient, Fading Gigolo has poor taste too when it comes to talk about Jewish and Black communities. Woody Allen is used as an excuse to tackle the matters of sexe, love and community affiliations, without Allen’s wit and reflexion. It was rather hard to find that one star, but some credit should go to the first few minutes in Super 8 which are pleasant to watch and Vanessa Paradis’ cover of Tu si na cosa grande, to be heard at the end of the painful hour and a half.
Fading Gigolo, directed by John Turturro is released in UK cinemas on the 23rd of May 2014 by Curzon Film World. Certificate 15.