The premise of “Fading Gigolo” makes it sound like a potentially raucous sex comedy: A man convinces a reluctant friend of his to have sex with a wealthy unhappily married woman who’s willing to pay a hefty price. So happy is this woman with the friend’s services, that word spreads. Soon enough, the man is scheduling dozens of such encounters for his at-one-time reluctant friend. The two men begin to amass a small fortune.
But rather than starring somebody like, say, Seth Rogen as the procurer and Zac Efron as the sexy friend, (those two star in another comedy just opening called “Neighbors,”), “Fading Gigolo” stars the near octogenarian Woody Allen and the rather peculiar-looking John Turturro.
With those two as your leading men, there’s no way this movie will be typical Hollywood fare, although it’s not without its laughs.
The first woman Allen sets up for Turturro is an attractive dermatologist played by Sharon Stone. She in turn recommends Turturro to another sexy friend played by Modern Family’s Sofie Vergara.
Both of these sexual encounters, while humorous at times, are not primarily played for laughs. Instead, they’re relatively earnest looks at the awkwardness and desperation inherent in such human interactions.
And Turturro’s character is not about hopped-up sexuality. He’s an accommodating listener who responds differently to the various women’s needs. This is especially true of his dealings with a repressed Jewish widow played by Vanessa Paradis (Johnny Depp’s ex, by the way.)
Thanks to its excellent cast and restrained writing, “Fading Gigolo” turns out to be a gentle and wry look at relationships, whether they be love matches, platonic friendships, or strictly sexual affairs. Their common denominator is a shared humanity.