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.
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Strapped for cash, handsome but middle-aged bookshop worker Fioravante decides to accept an offer of an unusual job from his friend Murray, who recently had a brainwave after his dermatologist and her friend admitted to wanting a new sexual experience with a stranger. Murray charged them a huge $1,000, offering the modest Fioravante the chance to be a male escort for a large paycheque while keeping a portion himself. After realising that he quite enjoys the experience of worshipping single and lonely women in the bedroom, Fioravante continues his exploits with Murray and ends up meeting a particularly shy woman named Avigal. Consumed by loneliness, Avigal seeks comfort and recognition, but just how deep does her solitude go?
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