(directed by John Turturro, 2014)
**** (out of 5)
> In this fine film, John Turturro demonstrates that he is more than the capable character actor I always took him to be- he’s a deft actor, a solid screenwriter and a capable director as well.
. What a coup to have convinced Woody Allen to take a hiatus from his considerable career, to co-star with him in this surprisingly sweet take on a couple of old friends becoming pimp and gigolo for sexually bored older ladies, like Sharon Stone and Sofía Vergara, who crave some taboo adventure in their detached lives. It’s all presented as kind of accidental, but the enterprise begins to pick up steam as Turturro works his natural charm with the ladies, and the word gets out that this guy’s a stud. In fact, he is remarkably adept at being exactly what his clients want or need him to be, as are all good prostitutes. But things get considerably more complicated, when a winsome, mousey Orthodox Jewish widow comes into the picture. Woody sells her on the idea, that even though it’s not okay for her to even shake hands with a man outside of marriage, it’s another matter altogether if it’s “therapy”. Surprisingly, she agrees. It quickly becomes apparent that it is not sex she needs, but rather- simple human touch, when she falls to pieces over a gentle back massage. Our new gigolo cannot help but begin to fall for her, impeding his ability to “perform” for his other clients.
. And no wonder! Actress Vanessa Paradis is absolutely wonderful in every frame, bringing a heartbreaking vulnerability to the role, that is really an extraordinary delight to behold. Ms. Paradis does not appear to have had much of a career before this- but this fine actress sure deserves one. Woody was very good here too. Though delivering familiar zingers about mortality that pepper all his other films, he seems to step outside of himself a bit- visiting familiar territory, but in a more subtle and real way than we are used to seeing from him. In his final stages of life, Mr. Allen has found his voice as an actor.
> Way to go Turturro! This is so tasty- I sure hope you get to make more of your own films. Can’t wait to see ’em.
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