One of my favourite things about listening to vinyl records was poring over the back of LP covers looking for familiar names. I was always pleasantly surprised when famous musicians lent backing vocals or guitar licks to a friend’s album, like John Lennon on Bowie’s Fame, or Nile Rogers on the Vaughan Brothers’ Family Style. I imagined that these mates jamming together gave the songs a relaxed, loose vibe. Sure, the songs weren’t necessarily the artists’ best work, but you could always feel the love coming through the speakers.
Same thing can be said of John Turturro’s Fading Gigolo. He brought a lot of friends to the jam session and they didn’t hit all the notes, but the result was still kinda catchy in spite of itself.
Turturro plays Fioravante, a mild-mannered florist having money issues. His best friend Murray proposes he pimp out Fioravante to his doctor who is interested in having a threesome Soon Fioravante has built up a clientele, but falls for Avigal, the widow of a Hassidic Rabbi which leads to a cacophony of moral conflict.
Speaking of which, I’m curious if you met John through the Coen brothers. You’ve both worked for them so many times it would seem likely that you’ve run into each other on occasion. Turturro turned in many iconic performances like the titular Barton Fink, and the scene-stealing Jesus in Big Lebowski. Your job was to secure musical clearances for No Country For Old Men and Inside Llewyn Davis to name a few. The Coen’s music is just as carefully considered and executed as their characterizations of men pushing at the boundaries of their existence. Similarly, the choices you made for the music in Fading Gigolo are deliberate and evocative. Standards like Dean Martin’s Sway, playfully sexy tango numbers, and original jazz compositions all add to the lush world Fioravante inhabits. It’s a shame that Fioravante just lays there dead on the page.
We never learn enough about Fioravante to be truly invested in his journey. The interplay between he and Woody Allen’s pitch perfect Murray sounds like a well rehearsed duet. When Murray turns Fioravante out a little too easily and without much resistance, Turturro misses a chance to show us some of Fioravante’s depth. Instead, he rushes headlong into his role as unconventional lothario and the arms of Sharon Stone’s unfulfilled Dr. Parker. They slow dance to a soft jazz selection, which showcases your curating skills and Dr. Parker’s vulnerability, but leaves Fioravante a dull mystery.
The music, as with the earthy set design, and the elegantly textural jewel-toned costuming, create a rich and sensual backdrop that make up for the flat characters and the somewhat improbable plot. We’re never exactly sure why Fioravante falls for pious Avigal, or why Murray sets them up in the first place. Luckily, watching a talented cast – including Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber, Sofia Vergara – wander through New York City accompanied by songs from jazz greats Dalida and Gene Ammons isn’t entirely unpleasant.
I admit I’m not a big jazz aficionado, but I’ve learned that the best way to enjoy it is to just let it waft over me like a warm breeze. When I do that, there doesn’t need to be an obvious structure, or beginning, middle and end for me to appreciate the assembled components. I felt the same way watching this film. If I tried too hard to find the melody I might have missed out on some inspired solos, yours included.
Keep hitting those high notes,