With a witty observational script, amusing characters and a jazzy sense of life in New York, this feels like an old-fashioned Woody Allen movie, even though Allen merely costars in it. Instead, it was written and directed by leading actor John Turturro, with an easy-going charm that's irresistible even if it feels vaguely dated. And despite its potentially controversial premise, the film is so gentle that it's unlikely to ruffle many feathers.
Turturro stars as Fioravante, a florist whose life hasn't gone as planned. His one-time mentor Murray (Allen) has just been forced to close his grandfather's rare-book shop, and with too much time on his hand has started working on Fior's life. Murray thinks Fior could make a living as an escort, and sends him on a date with his dermatologist (Sharon Stone). When that goes well, a string of wealthy clients follow, including the man-eating Selima (Sofia Vergara). But one of Murray's friends is more reluctant: the devout Avigail (Vanessa Paradis) is a widowed rabbi's wife who can't have contact with other men. As she and Fior begin a tentative friendship, there might be something meaningful developing. Then a jealous community cop (Schreiber) notices that something is amiss.
As a director, Turturro keeps the scenes grounded in real situations that centre on the characters rather than the machinations of the plot. This offers a lively depiction of this neighbourhood as a melting pot of African-Americans, Italians and Hasidic Jews who are part of each others' lives. Some of this might feel a bit contrived (Murray also adopts a sprawling black family), but the interaction is jaggedly funny and packed with a generous stream of honest emotion.
This relaxed style also lets the cast create earthy characters who playfully explore a variety of issues, although they never quite get around to thinking about the implications of prostitution. This means that the film is ultimately rather superficial, as the likeable characters drift through an easy rom-com formula. But even though the film feels deeply traditional, there's a bright spark of chemistry between all of the actors that makes it thoroughly charming.
Run time: 90 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 9th April 2014
Box Office USA: $3.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $2.7M
Distributed by: Millenium Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%
Fresh: 68 Rotten: 57
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: John Turturro
Producer: Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte, Bill Block, Paul Hanson
Screenwriter: John Turturro
Starring: John Turturro as Fioravante, Woody Allen as Murray, Vanessa Paradis as Avigal, Liev Schreiber as Dovi, Sharon Stone as Dr. Parker, Sofía Vergara as Selima, Bob Balaban as Sol, Max Casella as Guy at Couner, Aida Turturro as Driver's Wife, Eugenia Kuzmina as Lady on Street
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