This week Cineast previews John Turturro’s Fading Gigolo plus Kid Cannabis and Small Time.
Woody Allen, before he became legitimately controversial, used to generate a certain amount of trivial controversy by casting himself as a leading man in romantic situations with women who were, by conventional standards, “too good” for him. As years went by, he added to this the controversy of casting himself as a leading man opposite women who were “too young” for him as well. Of course, in real life such mismatches, if they can be called that, are quite common. Now, as if to illustrate this situation as a farce, John Turturro has written and directed Fading Gigolo, in which the aging John Turturro himself—who, even as a young man, lacked the good looks of a typical leading man—plays a florist who becomes a gigolo. And a very successful and popular gigolo at that, servicing and satisfying a long list of women who are “too good for him.” In a nod to the most obvious antecedent to this general idea, Woody Allen himself plays Turturro’s procurer—that is, pimp.
Just in time for “420,” Kid Cannabis tells the story, based on real life events, of a young high-school dropout who gets involved in a big-money marijuana smuggling operation. Finding that Canada has some “righteous buds,” and realizing that the porous border between Canada and the US is a lot less perilous for smuggling than that between Mexico and the US, the young man starts to smuggle weed in quantity. Of course, this brings him into conflict with some pretty heavy-duty criminals who control the market, and things go south pretty quickly. Soon, the subject will be moot, as anyone who really wants to toke in peace can move to where it’s legal.
It’s hard to imagine a figure more distrusted than the used-car salesman, and it’s hard to imagine a child wanting to become a used-car salesman. In Small Time, young Freddy Klein (Devon Bostick) announces his intention to skip college in favor of joining his father, Al Klein (Christopher Meloni), in the used car business, causing his mother (who is divorced from Al) to threaten suicide. The film tries to make the point that, while of course there’s a lot of deception in selling used cars, that doesn’t necessarily distinguish it from other, more reputable ways of making a living. Meanwhile, the skill of getting people to overcome their misgivings and make a decision that they want to make anyway—like when a used-car salesman exerts subtle pressure on a wavering customer—is a useful skill to have in many different situations. There’s no reason NOT to set a coming-of-age story in a used car lot.