Written and directed by John Turturro
Starring John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber
Opens in Canada May 23, 2014
An old fashioned sex romp for grownups sings with Allen-esque wit and candour in a typically Allen golden hued Manhattan. Except that it’s a John Turturro film with Allen making a rare acting only appearance. The film doesn’t hit the high standard of Allen films but it is entertaining, sophisticated and wry, like Allen.
Allen is Murray, a professor who needs cash. He falls into an idea of pimping out his friend and splitting the proceeds. It’s not the kind of thing their circle does but he puts aside all reservations. He will set up his friend, Fioravante, a gentle, soft-spoken florist, as a paid escort and split 60/40.
As a favour to his old friend Fioravante dives in with a gentle stoicism not usually associated with sex for sale. Turns out his connections with women are deeper, more than sex, and somehow transforming. He wakes them up from boredom and loneliness sometimes just with a touch on the bare back. His manner is loving but restrained, gentle and real and certainly not what his clients expected.
His first customers are Sharon Stone’s Dr. Parker, then her girlfriend Selima (Vergara) soon followed by a parade of besotted wealthy women ($1000 a go). The business is a success and Murray’s money problems are over but he doesn’t want to stop.
Fioravante now understands the power he has to heal. He meets Avigal, (Paradis) a tightly wound Hassidic widow with six children who adheres strictly to the rules and in doing so, has gone numb. Life has narrowed into shadowy nothingness.
By now Dovi (Schreiber) a local police man – in full Orthodox gear and a badge – realises something is going on that might not be completely kosher. He follows Murray and Fioravante and watches them going in the same apartments on a regular basis. Dovi is in love with Avigal.
Turturro’s performance as Fioravante is powerful and rich. We believe he has an empathetic and sexual appeal to women, that he is magnetic and even as he breaks the law, is committed to giving them something special.
Allen is Allen is Allen. The shtick is the same and appealingly so. It is strange to watch him as substitute father to a big diverse gang of youngsters and think of the former Farrow family. He isn’t a pimp as much as he’s a friend – who needs money – working a friend. Maybe. There is an appealing contradiction he’s able to pull off.
How fabulous to see Stone as the sexual panther again. Instead of crotch high skirts and sexual gymnastics of Stones’ youthful days in the movies, she wears full length skirts, and exudes that signature animal magnetism. Vergara’s character is brassy and out there, as brutally honest but veers into parody.
Turturro’s’ direction is confident and mature. He loves New York and sets it to glowing with magic hour shoots and warm, welcoming interiors. He shoots his stars as though they were dreams, and despite the lurid premise, it’s an innocent and fresh look at life. Some passages are too long and it’s tough to see folks of Murray and Fioravante’s delicacy actually doing this, but in all, it’s funny and friendly.