i saw two movies recently that had a lot in common, and one crucial difference. Don Jon and Fading Gigolo are both about emotionally hardened people that get soft through non-transactional personal relationships. Don Jon learns to stop objectifying, and the Fading Gigolo doesn't change much himself, but Avigal learns to love again, if capriciously - based on her final pick.
the crucial difference is that one movie was good and one was bad. it's pretty basic. they are both character portraits with only a little dramatic arc, though in F.G. it's hard to tell who is supposed to be the main character. do we care more about Murray and his charitable acts but empty pockets? or Fioravante and his aimless life (and how is he fading as a gigolo? it's a fading regular guy that becomes a gigolo - and judging from his on-screen charisma a fading actor too-)? or Avigal and her return to emotional life?
Don Jon i think perfectly grabs a character type, this fastidious straight guy who may not have a bright future (see Tony Danza as the dad) but has a clockwork, impeccable life. i love how this movie showed it with scenes recurring exactly the same way: picking up the girl at the bar, dancing, cab, getting out of bed, turning on the computer, watchin the pornoooooos, making the bed, church, confession, gym, etc. he's eventually redeemed and saved from himself, and the soulless routine is broken. and the hair gel thrown away. it's all about his character changing, and it's totally believable.
i think F.G. falls flat because it's boring as hell, but also because there's no such compass in Fioravante. he feels a little guilty first about taking the money, but only guilty enough to fill in 5 minutes of the screen time, and then is perfectly happy with being objectified himself, until he falls in love with Avigal and can't finish the job anymore (as Martin Amis wrote in Money, "it's called a hard-on for a reason.") but then she just picks some other random guy, and he does what exactly? goes back to being a gigolo? she's a minor character who gets all the change. the best parts of the movie were the Jewish ones - the brooklyn neighborhood, the shomrim, the orthodox court, Saul Hersch. and yet it was all about the other guy, who pretends without guilt to be a Sephardic Jew to seduce the woman he truly loves? what a mess.
go see Don Jon!