Monday, May 5, 2014


Murray talks his friend Fioravante into becoming a gigolo so they can both work out their troubled finances. It works; Fior's plain but urbane masculinity offers such a comforting mix of charm and effortless eroticism that he is soon the go to stud for the disaffected professional class women of Brooklyn.

Into this come Murray's family friend, the ultra-Jewish widow Avigal stultified by her own grief and devotion to her traditions. She has a problem with a back rub let alone the full body latte so Fior's progress with her is going to go even slower than the pacing down he relaxes his usual clients with. It veers hazardously close to love. Meanwhile, local keystone patrolman Dovi is struggling with the distant love he has felt for Avigal from the days of their childhood.

The makings here are for gentle farce and urban folktale but writer/director/lead actor John Tuturro keeps it more interesting by focusing on the pain. Firoavante's manly elegance and affectless appeal only very thinly conceal a deep wound. The chief benefit from his gigolo work seems to be therapy rather than hedonism and money. His job with the reticent Avigal feels more tutorial than amorous, though it's this thread that brings the story closest to love out of all of them. Their scenes, curtained off from the rest of the neighbourhood life have a stillness to them that feels respectful rather than slow.

What that means, though, is that the more comedic moments are affected by the seriousness of the core scenes so what comedy there is outside of the nice sized bag of one liners falls prey to dramatic gravity. The Hassidic tribunal that Woody Allen's Murray faces promises to get funny with every line but can't break through. When Avigal appears to face them it feels like the scene has been waiting for it rather than transformed by it.

If anything the flaw of this enjoyable film is that it doesn't balance the anger and darkness of some of the characters with the enlivening lightness of the funnier threads. Liev Schreiber's unrequited lifelong love saddens rather than comically frustrates as it should. Sharon Stone's embittered and vengeful rich woman with unloving husband is a compelling character and played pitch perfect but the seriousness of her thread which verges on Cronenberg territory is frayed by the lightness of its conclusion.

With such a stellar cast thriving on the direction of a good actor and a clear delectation in the sense of the city in autumn and the confidence of trusting the sexiness of standards like Sway in the original this piece might have benefited greatly by a stronger grip on its darker themes which are abundant and left the lighter moments to add warmth. While one of the most consistently pleasing films of the year so far this is also one of the slightest because of this.

No comments:

Post a Comment