‘Fading Gigolo’ and the Economics of Gentrification
Posted at 3:30 p.m. on May 2, 2014
John Turturro’s low-key ode to old-school New York, “Fading Gigolo,” arrives in Washington at a weird time, opening amid the glitz of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and the unofficial start of the summer blockbuster movie season.
“I have an affection for that world, and I’m part of that world,” Turturro said in a recent interview about his latest movie, which opens Friday at E Street Cinema in D.C., Bethesda Row in Maryland and the Angelika at Mosaic in Northern Virginia.
The movie stars Turturro as Fioravante, a middle-aged renaissance man who, watching as his own economic prospects fade, becomes a male escort at the behest of his pal, a rare-bookstore-owner-turned-pimp played by Woody Allen.
Along the way, wealthy hot-to-trotters played by Sharon Stone and Sophia Vergara cross paths with Fioravante, as does a lonely Hassidic widow played by Vanessa Paradis and a lovesick Hassidic neighborhood watchman played by Liev Schreiber. It’s a straightforward romantic comedy. But at the heart of it is a valentine to a fading New York, one being mowed down by money and influence.
The film’s opening shot shows a Staples right next to Murray’s closing bookstore. It’s a familiar sight in New York and other cities, the quirky and old pushed out by chains and new money.
Turturro, who in addition to directing and starring in the film also wrote the screenplay, said the impetus for the story was a friend from Brooklyn who had to close his rare bookstore. “There’s something about it that’s nourishing, and when you know the people, it’s different. You talk about a book, then they play chess. … It was a place, there was interaction. And now with digital, computers, phones and everything, there’s less of that. And I think you really lose a lot. Record stores, CD stores — everything is a bank, a real estate office or a chain store,” he said.
Adding to the rub is the fact that in March, Staples announced even it couldn’t succeed in the current economy and would be closing stores nationwide. Perhaps the one next to Murray’s fictional bookstore won’t be there much longer either.
And that’s the way a light comedy about male prostitution also becomes one about economic inequality and community and gentrification, all issues ripe for public figures to contemplate amid “Spider-Man 2″ and the aftermath Nerd Prom’s Hollywood on the Potomac weekend.