A FILM THAT NEVER QUITE GETS THERE
The central conceit of Hollywood polymath John Turturro’s fifth effort in his side gig as director seems inherently comedic. In an effort to support themselves after the book store they both work in fails, store owner Woody Allen turns pimp to Turturro’s book store clerk-turned-titular gigolo. Old people talking frankly about, and in engaging in, sex? It seems only inevitable that hilarity would ensue.
Maybe ‘hilarity’ is a bit strong. The movie rolls by amiably, eliciting only a chuckle here and there. A reserved-yet-charming Turturro quietly romances a pair of beautiful rich women (Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara) and, due to Allen’s wacky brand of pimping, a widowed Orthodox Jewish woman. Of course, complications arise when the aforementioned grieving Orthodox Jewish woman (Vanessa Paradis) turns out to have a doting admirer in lovelorn neighbourhood watchman Liev Schreiber. All the players play their roles just fine, but their performances match the tone of the movie too well. Like the movie, they are all passably charming, but never exactly funny or interesting. Woody Allen is, unsurprisingly, Woody Allen. He wanders into scenes, jabbers some Woody Allen jokes, and leaves. Any scene Woody Allen is in is a micro-Woody Allen movie, and not the good kind, like you want.
Turturro is an amazingly able actor, but seems somewhat limited in his capacity as a director. The movie is never unpleasant, and Turturro has certainly taken notes from some of the best. He has frequently collaborated with the Coen Brothers, whose style he briefly cribs in the latter half of the movie, and costar Allen himself is a storied director. Despite his efforts, the movie just never fully connects on any level. It’s okay at everything it does, in the same way a lukewarm cup of coffee is okay. Not the worst thing in the world, but not something you’d ever ask for.
By David Nowacki