The Films of John Turturro
Mac (May 10/04)
Mac stars John Turturro as Niccolo "Mac" Vitelli, a well-meaning construction worker who decides to open his own business alongside his two brothers (Michael Badalucco's Vico and Carl Capotorto's Bruno). As virtually every other review has already noted, Mac is an intensely personal film for Turturro - who wrote and directed - and even closes with the sound of the actor's real-life father attempting to leave him an answering machine message. The movie is set in the 1950s, and Turturro does a fantastic job of establishing this blue-collar world; the camaraderie between construction workers and particularly the bond shared by the Vitelli brothers feels genuine. Then again, when you've got a cast that's this effective, it's not all that surprising that the relationships come off so effectively. Turturro, in particular, gives one of his best performances as a character who's not always entirely likable. Mac can be quite the taskmaster at times, and it's certainly a testament to Turturro's talent that we're consistently rooting for the guy - even when he's alienating his own family. The supporting cast is fine, particularly Badalucco and Capotorto, but this is really Turturro's show. Though there's a lot to admire about Mac, the film never becomes quite as engrossing as Turturro clearly wants it to be - primarily due to an overlong running time and at least one entirely useless subplot. In terms of the latter, Turturro, along with co-screenwriter Brandon Cole, has inexplicably included a character named Oona (Ellen Barkin) - a bohemian artist that both Bruno and Vico are interested in. The quirkiness of Oona doesn't at all jibe with the sort of gritty realism that Turturro has otherwise imbued the film with, and the story comes to a dead halt every time she appears. Mac marks Turturro's directorial debut, and there's no denying that it's an impressive first feature. It's the relationship between the three brothers that makes the movie worth a look, even through some of the more superfluous moments.
Romance & Cigarettes
Fading Gigolo (May 29/14)
Written and directed by John Turturro, Fading Gigolo follows affable florist Fioravante (Turturro) as he agrees to become a male prostitute for his financially-strapped friend (Woody Allen's Murray) - with the movie detailing the problems that ultimately occur once Fioravante falls for a deeply religious widow (Vanessa Paradis' Avigal). There's little doubt that Fading Gigolo fares best in its opening 45 minutes, as filmmaker Turturro employs a breezy, easygoing sensibility that's heightened by both the irresistible premise and the engaging performances - with, in terms of the latter, Turturro himself offering up a stellar turn that's matched by Allen's entertaining work as Fioravante's fast-talking pal. The movie, however, slows down considerably as it enters its padded-out midsection, with Turturro placing an increased emphasis on elements of a decidedly less-than-engrossing nature. The most obvious and potent example of this is Fioravante's ongoing relationship with Paradis' dull character, as there's simply never a point at which the viewer is able to work up any interest in or enthusiasm for the bond between the two disparate figures - with Turturro exacerbating the situation by peppering in a whole host of underwhelming scenes and sequences (eg Murray faces a tribunal of Jewish leaders). It's clear, then, that Fading Gigolo peters out significantly in the buildup to its utterly underwhelming final stretch, and there's little doubt that what starts out as a fun watch becomes something of a chore to sit through.