fading gigolo

This is a very goofy premise: Woody Allen convinces his friend John Turturro (who wrote and directed), apropos of nothing, to become a male prostitute. Sounds like the start of slapstick or farce, but Turturro guides it in a much more interesting, more meaningful direction that is attentive to class, gender, and clashing cultures.

Somewhere along the way this silly idea becomes a warm and touching romance between Turturro and a Hasidic widow. She’s played by Vanessa Paradis in an emotional but restrained performance of a woman restrained by culture but driven by longing. Turturro holds a close-up of her during a massage where her face conveys so much emotion about the meaning of touch for a woman for whom it is forbidden. She’d be a worthy contender for Best Supporting Actress.

Woody Allen, meanwhile, is just being Woody Allen. He’s given this performance countless times before and functions in this story mostly as comic relief and an engine to move the plot along.