Fading Gigolo, John Turturro’s fifth directorial effort, is a wonderful film. It also is what my mother used to call “not everyone’s cup of tea.” About part-time florist Fioravante (Turturro) who becomes a Don Juan-for-hire to solve his financial woes, it is unfashionable in some key ways: wry rather than snarky, tender-hearted rather than glib. It takes place in the multicultural neighborhoods of old-school Brooklyn rather than in the hipster playground now earmarked as the New York City borough, and it features men and women, often in compromisingly graphic positions, who are over 40. Perhaps most unfashionably, it co-stars Woody Allen in his first artistic effort since the controversies about his personal life resurfaced, as well as in one of his first appearances in a film that he did not direct and write. Continue Reading →
I guess I’ve hit my fill of something, whether it’s the manic pixie paradigm or the malingering winter I’m not sure, but this broad has had it. Coming up from the subway platform at 14th street and 8th Avenue, we were all held up by a 20something waif decked out in gold slippers, a puff of fake white fur, and a tiny blond haircut who was leafing through a children’s library book as she glacially tiptoed up the stairs. She was so caught in a reverie of herself that she didn’t hear everyone’s “excuse me, excuse me” as they attempted to pass her. Finally, I tapped her on the shoulder: “You ain’t that cute, honey,” I said. “Get cracking.” Her face contorted. “F–k you,” she spat out. “That ain’t cute either,” said another lady my age, climbing by her.
My Jewish grandmother had a penchant for big words that began with “I”—so much so that I often wondered if her vocabulary class stopped before the letter “J.” Imminent. Immense. Impetuous. Inimitable. Indubitable. Inimical. Her favorite was insipid. She used that word a lot, always spitting it out with so much relish that it sounded like another of the Yiddishisms she brandished, frequently at my sister’s and my expense. (Look at those goyishe noses! They look just like their shiksa mother’s! ) Lately I keep flashing on it because it’s such a perfect term for what I find irksome about our culture right now. The emoticarnage, the tremulously hyperbolic headlines, the LOLs, the fake-it-til-you-make-it selfies, the definite article-laden titles for spouses and children (The Princess! The Heir! The Hubs!), the kooky animal videos sent to me by suitors who, in another generation, might have demonstrated the good sense to send flowers or chocolate. The proliferation of fake-earnest catchphrases like “can I just say?” “I can’t lie,” and, my least favorite, “so many feelings.” Not to mention the largely accepted tendency to deliver statements in singsong or as questions?
Though I embrace the particular cuteness of any being who tries hard un-self-consciously, I’ve always eschewed preciousness; never had much patience for aw-shucksiness; and would rather people say it than spray it, as the expression used to go. All this niceyniceness is enough to make a kind girl run to snark, at least in this seemingly endless winter. My grandmother was largely regarded as a pill—always picking, never hugging (hers was a hard life)—but she had a knack for calling out, er, mishegos. More and more I catch myself donning her navy pumps, fake furs, and smeary red lipstick, figuratively and literally. Because, really, insipid is the perfect word for these times. She was insightful, nu?