You'd be daft not to have Woody Allen in your movie, wouldn't you? If he was available and willing, you'd have to have him. Woody's presence in John Turturro's latest, however, makes the film lopsided: this isn't a Woody Allen type movie, it isn't Woody's story and the plot doesn't really warrant his character.
Allen plays a former bookshop owner who is forced to shut up shop. Cash-strapped, he sense an opportunity to make money when he overhears his doctor (Sharon Stone) and rich friend (Sofia Vergara) looking for a ménage-a-trois. Allen knows he's not up to the task but Turturro, who has helped out occasionally at the shop and is need of a cash injection himself, is the man for the job. For a small fee, which Allen will take a percentage from, of course. Turturro grows into the gig but is unable to keep his feelings at bay when Allen hooks him up with Jewish widow Paradis.
It's an implausible set up, and one that could easily excise Allen's would-be pimp role with a minor script revision. But Turturro knows that his film, his first since 2005's musical Romance & Cigarettes, would struggle to get noticed without Allen's presence. The problem is there's an expectation that Allen will be a greater influence over the plot, or at least be involved more than he is, but he isn't/doesn't and the pimp-gigolo thing is eventually left behind. Allen, however, still hangs around looking for something to do.
This is taking up the room needed for the real story to flourish - the love triangle between Turturro, Paradis, and Liev Shrieber, a neighbourhood watch official for his Hasidic Jewish Brooklyn community who has admired Paradis from afar since her husband died. Squashed and starved of space, what should be the main story is relegated to an undeveloped subplot: we're aware of why Paradis is attracted to Turturro but there isn't enough from him here to suggest she's anything more than a client. This narrative is missing a beat or two.
It's charming, it's fine, Paradis is great, the Turturro/Allen friendship is cute and you'd have to be mean so-and-so to hate it but Fading Gigolo just doesn't click into place.