Review by Paul Stathakis | 2003

“I’m the bull, you’re the cow,” says Ben Affleck’s character in “Gigli” when discussing the roles that lovers occupy in a relationship. Of course, that is just Affleck doing his talk. The movie is constructed with bits of comedy of this type and enough drama to make viewers care about the main characters – a total surprise. But it’s long and the material doesn’t always succeed at making us, well, giggle.

Affleck stars as a Larry Gigli (which, for the millionth time, rhymes with “really”), a Los Angeles hit man for tough-guy Louis (Lenny Venito). When Larry is asked to kidnap the disabled brother (Jason Bertha) of an important lawyer, problems start to add up for Gigli. His peaceful life is suddenly filled with serious responsibilities. First, there is the disabled brother, which he must cope with and please and then, unexpected visitor number 1: Ricki (Jennifer Lopez).

Lopez plays a lesbian and if you thought that casting information was nothing but a nasty rumor, think again. She informs Affleck’s character about this in a scene where he tries to get intimate with her in his bed.

There is also a scene in the movie where Affleck and Lopez discuss penises, vaginas, the best way to satisfy a lover, what it takes to do so, and which gender is more in demand. This is mostly humor for adults. Lopez performs a stretch while calmly arguing the topic. She is provocative and teasing, but still claims that the female gender is more important.  Watch Affleck’s face closely during this scene. He stands, quiet, sad-eyed, listening attentively to Lopez, giving us the impression that he is either in a daze or mesmerized by her ideas. It is those sad looks and the emotions he brings out in his performance that stayed with me. Lopez didn’t impress me. “Selena” is still her best and most convincing work to date.

The film is comprised of tons of surprises (mostly cameos) of this magnitude. At the beginning of “Gigli” when Ricki first barges into Larry’s cozy apartment, he isn’t even aware that he must watch-over her. Louis quickly informs Larry about the task over the phone in a heated manner. That quickly sets the stage for the rest of the film.

Affleck and Lopez are real-life lovers. That is no secret. The media covers them like there is no tomorrow. Many critics have reported that the two posed as a couple only to boost sales for the movie. However, both Affleck and Lopez denied that report. It was on the set of “Gigli” that the two personally connected for the very first time.

I thought there was a lot that worked in “Gigli” on a romantic level and thought it possessed a sharp border, where events didn’t escalate so quickly and easily. But there were horrid and pointless moments, shallow ones, which bared no meaning or purpose whatsoever. Take for example a scene where Affleck, Lopez, and Bertha stop by a small eating-place for a snack. Not too far from where they are sitting are teenagers listening to loud music. Larry warns them several times to lower their radio, but they ignore his warnings and even invite him to brawl. Instead Lopez takes the matter under her wing and resolves it, using a pathetic approach. It is really useless and ineffectively amusing, like the opening that is included to underline Affleck’s menacing/cool side. Scenes like this should have been removed from the final draft of the script. The film would’ve breathed more freely.

The main problem though is the length. Watching “Gigli” is like viewing an interesting documentary on TLC about a particular site. They rave about the location for two hours or so but only reveal it towards the end. Same thing here. Arriving at “Gigli’s” conclusion takes time, more time than necessary. This is not TLC, nor is it a documentary, and that is the point. Why the 124-minute running time, then?

“Gigli” is upbeat, clearly. It ends on a happy note, but is unevenly happy throughout, like most traditional romantic films. The characters have to fuss a little, scream at each other a little, and experience trouble together, all to finally give in and admit that they are good people who need each other. It is a basic formula. All that writer-director Martin Brest does here is play around with the equation. Sometimes it works well; other times it feels like a serious mistake. But in the end it’s exactly like Roger Ebert said: “The movie is worth seeing for some scenes that are really very good.”

 

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