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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