The male protagonists of 'Fading Gigolo' and 'Locke' do what they gotta do
Fading Gigolo goes down very easily, even if on his fifth feature behind the camera Turturro remains a sometimes stilted director and careless scenarist. Taking a leaf from Allen's notebook, this romantic fantasy is shot in warm, soft tones, draped in cool jazz, and takes place in an idealized New York City that's part nostalgia, part pure imagination. The scented-bath atmosphere allows you to overlook the clumsier, poorly developed bits. And the film's sometimes naive good nature almost lets it get away with being an entirely narcissistic male daydream of what women really want: an average (but secretly exceptional) guy whom beauties throw themselves at because he alone understands they want to be wooed.
Another guy performing a sort of perfected masculinity for the benefit of needy others is Tom Hardy's titular character in Steven Knight's Locke. This virtual solo show has the actor as Ivan Locke, a 40-ish construction manager driving to London on the eve of "the biggest cement pour" ever attempted in Europe. But he's driving away from that, to the shrill indignation of superiors who expect his reliable on-site supervision, and the increasingly drunken panic of the flunky (voice of Andrew Scott) he's deputized to take his place. The reason for this unprecedented dereliction of responsibility is that Ivan is committed to another responsibility, to "take care of my fuckup."
As we gradually realize during his 85-minute drive, that means showing up for the premature birth of the baby he's sired by a fragile, rather hysterical-sounding woman (Olivia Colman) in the brief sole detour from marital infidelity he's ever taken. Doing so may well end his career, as well as his long-standing marriage to the mother of his sons. But our protagonist is determined at any cost not to become his own late father (with whom he has imaginary conversations), a wastrel who never made good on his obligations to family or anyone else.
Shot repeatedly in real time with multiple cameras over 12 nights (the actors voicing Bluetooth callers also performed "live" in conference-call fashion), then assembled from 16 full-length takes, Locke is a striking experiment that never quite escapes an air of theatrical stunt. In retrospect you realize most of its tension derives not from the core emotional crises, but from narrative red herrings — primarily our terror that anyone multitasking this recklessly behind the wheel is an accident waiting to happen. But the chameleonic Hardy, playing a rather square, middle-class, essentially humorless type unlike any he's done before, makes this effortfully "decent" man so compelling you can't look away. If there's anything this actor can't do, he hasn't tried it yet. *
FADING GIGOLO and LOCKE open Fri/2 in SF.