Wednesday, May 29, 2013

REVIEW: Gigli (2003)

Alright, so I’m only reviewing romantic comedies now – it’s time for a change and this is the change to end all changes. I feel rejuvenated and ready to review again. I really don’t see any other true path for myself except this. And what better to kick off my new and improved film reviewing series by doing the biggest flop of the 2000s, Gigli.

Director: Martin Brest
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez

That’s right, pretty much everyone who has ever seen this movie has something terrible to say about it. I’ve never heard a positive comment about this flick, ever. Most people call it one of the worst films ever made, in fact. But why? Most people really never go into why Gigli is so bad, and while I never doubted that it was, I was always curious as to exactly what horrific alchemical combination of cinematic elements made this film so reviled. After all, I’m never one to write off a movie before I even see it. So what better to do now than give Gigli the Cinema Freaks treatment and figure out why?

First of all, let’s look at the plot summary: Two professional gangsters, a straight man and a gay woman, have to live in the same apartment to watch after a retarded kid so the mob can blackmail some senator, all while the man tries to turn the woman straight so they can have sex.



Okay, well…it might not be that bad…you never know! It could be…erm, ehhh…okay, that sounds like the worst idea I’ve ever heard of. But hey, an idea alone doesn’t make a bad movie, so why not check out the two stars? Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, who met on the set of the film, and drew heavy tabloid attention at the time because of how famous they were. They ended up breaking up after the film was released, and you can pretty much ad lib your own joke here - there are numerous different ones. And as we all know, isn't tabloid garbage over the personal lives of movie stars the foundation for every good movie?

Alright, fine, let’s just get started on the movie itself. Clearly every element of this film’s production, before, during and after, is working against it when it comes to the film’s overall quality, but that doesn’t mean a thing about the movie before I actually watch it! I stand resolute on that. Let us delve deep into Gigli’s bloated fat and hopefully come out with a gem or two.

We start off with Ben Affleck, playing the title character Gigli, doing his laundry:

Extra quarters needed when you use the dryer for torture methods.

Oops, did I say laundry? I meant pressure-drying a well-toasted Mexican. I suppose they’re about the same. I just wonder if this is the same Laundromat that Dr. Horrible uses. Lord knows this movie would be better with a song and dance number from Neil Patrick Harris.

After he fails at that, his boss gets onto him about not being a good hit man. As punishment, he’s given the task of watching some retarded kid, the brother of a senator, as blackmail. Affleck goes to pick up the kid, whose name is Brian, and finds probably the most insulting stereotype you can get outside of Ben Stiller in Tropic Thunder:

And this guy went on to play in the Hangover decide which is more of a smudge on his dignity.

Oh, okay, it’s not that bad, and as the movie goes on it does actually get a little bit funny. But seriously, can you get any more shameless pandering for an Oscar? The idea of this movie winning an Oscar is a bit silly though. And to be fair, he does have the only funny lines in the movie later on.

Back at Gigli’s apartment, Gigli basically shouts a lot and acts like a giant douche toward Brian. If you weren’t charmed by him up to this point, well THANK HEAVEN for these scenes! I just think any movie could be improved by adding screaming man-children who try to act way tougher than they probably really are! You know what else could improve this? An entirely implausible, unrealistic and silly plot thread introduced for the sole purpose of moving the ludicrous plot along!

There we go! This is J-Lo, playing Ricki, a female contract gangster-type person who was hired by Affleck’s boss because he didn’t trust Gigli to do the job alone. What exactly is so dire about this job anyway? He’s just taking care of some retarded kid for a few days. It’s not like it’s a matter of utmost importance. I guess I kinda see what he means; I mean the first five minutes Gigli gets Brian alone, he shouts at him and threatens him like a schoolyard bully on steroids. Yeah, real goddamn tough guy, right? But that’s exactly what I mean – the whole plot hinges on this implausibility, and so without it, the movie would fall apart. Great screenwriting, guys…

So the next ten minutes of the movie is pretty much just these three characters annoying one another. Gigli shouts a lot and in no way does he ever seem convincing as a tough guy. J-Lo mostly just keeps that irritatingly smug wise-ass look on her face the whole time and while she’s not as annoying as Affleck, she’s still pretty goddamn bad. Just watch the scene at the dinner table when Brian won’t eat and Gigli keeps shouting at him. Ricki gets involved, too, and the whole scene basically just becomes a cinematic nuclear bomb of annoyance.

Just look at some of this dialogue from our titular main character: If by some fuckin' miracle long shot you haven't heard of my reputation let me tell you who the fuck I am! I am the fuckin' Sultan of Slick, Sadie! I am the rule of fuckin' cool! You wanna be a gangster? You wanna be a thug? You sit at my fuckin' feet and gather the pearls that emanate forth from me! Because I'm the fuckin' original, straight-first-foremost, pimp-mack, fuckin hustler, original gangster's gangster!

…I am just at a loss for words. It’s like every 90s stereotype of white kids trying to act black rolled up into one overpaid, overrated Hollywood actor. If this was a 14 year old kid, it would be embarrassing, but when it’s Ben Affleck? The level of pure awfulness and life-ruining embarrassment just breaks the stratosphere and soars way into outer space. If you want nothing but a grown man verbally abusing a mentally handicapped person and a much smaller, less able to defend herself woman...well this movie is for you.

"LOOK AT ME, I'M TOUGH AND BADASS! I'M BULLYING A RETARDED GUY!" I seriously feel sorry for Affleck though, especially since he's trying so hard to be seen as a legitimate artist and filmmaker. This can't be helping his quest at all these days.

I mean this is bad. Really, really bad. It’s practically unwatchable. This is the equivalent to going to that family reunion you never wanted to go to, and having to sit there and listen to your divorced aunt and uncle trade jabs at each other while your baby cousin screams his head off, while you’re suffering from a painful ulcer. In fact, I think that’s selling the movie too short – the scenario I described is actually much preferable to watching Gigli.

So if you actually didn’t turn off the movie after that, we see Gigli trying to romance Ricki later on at night, even convincing her to sleep in the same bed as him for the hell of it. Wasn’t he just telling her how much he hated her a few scenes ago, and telling her how much he didn’t need her around? Given the way that Gigli has acted all movie up to now – i.e. like an impudent, tough-guy jackass – no rational woman would ever listen to him when he asked her to sleep with him. Hell, no woman would even find it the least bit endearing. But according to the movie’s warped universe, and its need for the plot to move forward, Ricki goes ahead and sleeps right beside him in the same bed.

Ohhh yeah, professional etiquette AND lesbian tendencies right out the window! Tell me, lesbian readers: just because you're not attracted to men, is it OK to sleep in the same bed with them because of that? I just love the several different yet equally proportionate tides of nonsense this movie is spewing all at the same time, within this one scene. It's just so unrealistic, even for an early 2000s rom-com, that it's practically the eighth wonder of the cinematic world.

She tells him she’s a lesbian, and that pretty much settles the whole movie, right? Clearly this romance will never work because Ricki is a lesbian, and since Gigli is a man, there’s no chemistry. So I can just turn the movie off now and not miss a damn thing. Phew. What a relief…

Oh, but of course that’s not true, because in Contrived Screenwriting Land, this just means that Gigli has a challenge set up for him! Because lesbianism is fine and well, unless you’re a really hot chick. In that case, it is the male prerogative to change her to straight! God this movie is bad. Is this really our plot now? Unless it’s going to go all Chasing Amy and actually explore the individual character rather than her sexuality, I don’t think it’s going to work. This movie has all the charm of an angry Wal Mart customer who lost his receipt. Incoherent, immature and out of touch with reality, expecting everyone else to play by his rules…yup, that’s this movie.

The next day Christopher Walken comes to see them, and at this point all I can wonder is how they got him to sign on for this. I guess his philosophy is that he’ll act in anything, with no restrictions on quality – he just loves acting. And you know what? I can respect that. Walken is a cool, funny guy, and he definitely brings this piece of shit up a notch. Even if his only contribution to the movie is talking about putting pie on his head:

Oh yeah Walken, bringin' the class. Easily the funniest part of this whole circus.

To be fair, that’s much more stimulating and interesting than what Gigli and Ricki talk about for the rest of the film. Hell, I’d rather watch a whole movie about Walken’s character. I bet at least he isn’t a self-important douchenozzle piece of shit who tries to romance a woman who by all biological laws of nature, isn’t interested in him and never will be. I’d much prefer Walken’s character had his own movie!

Sigh, but unfortunately the trainwreck must go on. Afterward, they go out and eat lunch at some place where a bunch of hooligans are blasting loud rap music. Gigli acts like a doofus and starts a fight with them, but Ricki diffuses the situation by going over and talking about how she can gouge out their eyes with some martial arts skills she has. Afterwards she tells Gigli that it was all bullshit and she was just putting on a show…wow, what a useful scene, movie. What does that establish? That Ricki is a good liar? Wow, what a great reason to have a scene.

Oh please J-Lo, bestow upon us some more of your wisdom and knowledge.

They go to see Gigli’s mom, and it’s pretty much just a waste of time, so I’ll skip it. Back at home, Gigli comes across Ricki doing some yoga in his room and they fight about which sex is more desirable in bed, men or women. It’s a stupid argument because, well, explaining why would just bring me down to the movie’s level. But I will say this: watching Affleck here, playing the tough guy, the sex machine, is about as embarrassing as the other scenes of him trying to act like a tough guy. Watching this scene is just a pinnacle of god-awful writing and embarrassing lines that I am surprised either actor ever wanted to show their face in public after seeing. It really comes down to a contest of which is more annoyingly bad: Affleck’s tough-guy, “I’m the biggest sex god in the world” act, or Lopez’s “I know everything about everything” bullshit.

…okay, well the answer is still Affleck. But DAMN does Lopez give him a run for his money here! You could buy a car if you had a dime for every time she gives an annoyingly pretentious speech in this movie! Might as well just call it a new philosophy: The Zen of Ricki.

The next morning we get introduced to another character that will make you want to bang your head against a wall, Ricki’s girlfriend, who refuses to listen to reason and just screams at Ricki for staying in a house with a man.

How come she's so hysterical? Why is she so rude to just barge into Gigli's place and cause a ruckus? How did she even know where Ricki was? The movie will have the grace to answer absolutely none of these.

Even though both Ricki and Gigli try to tell the woman otherwise, she won’t listen. The only thing worthwhile about this scene is the following dialogue exchange:

Bitchy Girlfriend Character: Who the fuck are you?

Brian: You’re the fuck are you!

Yeah, not much, but in this movie? I’ll take it. You may notice I haven’t been talking a lot about Brian, and that’s because frankly his scenes aren’t too bad. They’re not good, but at least you can tell the filmmakers were at least trying to make something a little bit likable with them, unlike basically any other part of the film. He keeps saying he wants to go to “Baywatch,” where “all the pretty girls are,” and every time Gigli just picks up a flashlight and pretends to talk into it like a phone, “finding out” that the “Baywatch” is closed for the day. It’s a pretty jackass move, and I’m not even convinced that Brian is stupid enough to really believe it, but whatever; it’s still one of the least offensive parts of this whole mess.

Anyway, if you can believe it, the bitchy girlfriend character goes nuts in Gigli’s apartment, grabs a knife out of his kitchen drawer and slits her wrists in protest of, I guess, the fact that Ricki is with a man. Did we just enter into another movie all the sudden? What the hell is this crap? It’s got nothing to do with anything in the film and leads to nothing at all.

This has been the emotional climax of an entirely different film! Thank you for your time.

Oh, except a quick joke about Brian coming in his pants when he sees pretty girls. Thanks for that one, movie…just, thanks.

Later on, because attempted suicide puts them in the mood, Gigli and Ricki have sex together. Well actually that’s a bit of an oversimplification. What really happens is this: Gigli and Ricki are riding in the car and Gigli decides he’s fed up with it all, that he can’t take it anymore! He confesses his love to Ricki in one of the worst, least-inspiring movie speeches of all time, presented verbatim here:

You know something? You're right. It is sadness. Its sadness and I'm fucking sad. You got me. You're a genius. You know why I'm fucking sad? Because I got this fucking beautiful-sexy-gorgeous-hearthrob-o-rama-fucking-smart-amazing-bombshell-seventeen-on a fucking ten scale- girl sleeping in a bed right next to me and you know what? She's a stone cold dyke. A fucking untouchable, unhaveable, unattainable brick wall fucking dyke-a-saurus rexi. So its sad. Okay? What you want me to do? I feel fucking sadness about that. There's nothing I can fucking do. And not only is she a major babe, but I really like this girl a lot, a lot, I mean she's not like anybody else I ever knew before and that's a completely fucking new one on me, and I don't even know her real fucking name so there you go. Oh and in case you're interested, my life sucks. Alright? Stick a fork in me I'm done.

My heart is just crying. But you know what the strangest part of this whole sad-sack love story is? That speech up there; that contrived, poorly done, emotionally retarded speech? IT WORKS.

That’s right – it actually gets her into bed with him. I guess the secret to any lesbian’s heart is making horrible profanity-laden, immature and selfish speeches! Straight men, rejoice!

They talk some more about which sex is better at having sex, and, okay, I’ll bite: how is this argument in any way worth having? They’re literally arguing for or against homosexuality. Dude, Affleck; it’s not really up for debate which team she’s swinging for! It’s not like they’re impressionable little kids choosing which sport to play, you know! But I guess he really does think lesbians can be swayed easily to turn straight…and in this case he was right…sigh. There goes more of my faith in humanity. The idea of these two having sex so casually and spontaneously after Ricki just went through an emotional confrontation with her girlfriend is just ludicrous, and further shows that the film is completely detached from reality. A logical plot? What’s that?

Then we get some other long, drawn out bullshit about this mob boss guy played by Al Pacino, of all people – unlike Walken he does not give a film-redeeming performance, and instead just comes off as incredibly dull, loud and obnoxious. His whole point in the movie is to tell them that he didn’t like the idea of having Gigli kidnap Brian. That’s really about it…amazing…he kills the other mob boss guy who we saw at the beginning, and then threatens to kill Gigli and Ricki, too. Until Ricki goes on another one of her oh-so-enlightening speeches and talks him out of it pretty quickly, to be honest…I mean really? This is your big final confrontation? A guy changes his mind after a pretentious lesbian makes a speech?

He looks like an out of touch old codger trying to remain cool and hip...great character movie; I'm just so blown away. I'm also blown away that you got such an irritating performance out of Al Pacino of all people.

After that the movie decides it’s done torturing us, and decides to just kind of end. They drive Brian to the beach, which he claims is the Baywatch he’s been looking for all movie – some kind of filming set with a bunch of chicks and dudes in bathing suits. He finally goes and talks to one of them, which I guess is supposed to be the emotional climax of the movie.

…or is the emotional climax when Ricki comes back and tells Gigli she wants to be with him?

Alriiiiight, they had no chemistry and by all the laws of human interaction, this scumbag shouldn't have ended up with this pretentious lesbian, BUT IT'S A HAPPY ENDING! WHOO!

I don’t know; the movie couldn’t even decide. This whole thing is like five different movie clichés all in one! Is it the touching story of two unlikely people who fall in love? A mob scheme gone wrong? Or is it the story of how a cold-hearted thug helped a mentally ill person?

Well, either way, Gigli is just unbearable. It’s as bad as everyone says. I will say there are a few moments that maybe could have worked, if done by a more competent director and given more emotional weight, like the parts about Brian. The film is poorly acted, poorly written and the directing is ho-hum at best. But most of this is just ear-raping, eye-gouging horrors at how annoying Affleck and Lopez can be, and amazement at how they’re annoying in such specially unique ways. It’s seriously amazing how little chemistry on screen these two have. Doubly so because they were legitimately interested in one another offscreen - you'd think that would have translated to at least a little bit of a feeling like their characters at least liked one another. But I guess the power of the awful script really just transcends any other efforts to salvage the film, because the two of them act like they just met in an elevator before being asked to come make the movie.

Really, Gigli is just living proof of how we shouldn’t expect so much from a film solely based on who’s acting in it, and especially not if said actors are notoriously popular heartthrobs famous for tabloids and “who’s dating who” tidbits. The late 90s and early 2000s was full of this kind of celebrity idolization, in a much deeper way than today’s more informed generation has it, and Gigli was the final nail in the coffin for that kind of shallow appreciation of movies. I really do think people have gotten a lot wiser since, though; because really, there hasn’t been a big flop like this since. Not one that everyone was really on the edge of their seats waiting for, anyway. So it’s good that we’re finally learning that much, anyway, and if that’s the best thing I can take away from a viewing of Gigli, then I’m okay with that.

And I think the BIGGEST lesson I’ve learned from this terrifying journey is that I don’t have to restrict myself to any one genre to review movies. Hell, even when I started out, I knew that. Where did I lose the way? From now on I think I’ll just make a vow to review anything, from any genre. That sounds like a way better idea than just becoming stagnant by only reviewing one type of film. So I guess this is a good happy ending after all. And to think it came from Gigli. Who ever saw that one coming?

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