Movie Review: Gigli
Release Date: August 1, 2003
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
· Martin Brest
· Ben Affleck
· Jennifer Lopez
by Beth Gottfried
Published: July 31, 2003
"Gigli" (formerly "Tough Love") marks the debut of the Jen & Ben love story. If Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw hadn't already stolen "Love Story" in the 70s, I think this would have made a more fitting title for the movie. The film has been the object of much media attention in recent months, not only because it was the movie where Jen and Ben first hooked up and supposedly fell in love (much to the dismay of Jen's husband at the time, Cris Judd), but because it seemed plagued with problems from the get-go. (I mean they couldn't even decide on a title for the movie...that should tell us all something right there) The film was scheduled to be released last November, then moved to May, then mid-July, and finally July 30. From the buzz I hear, studio execs were not satisfied with some of the scenes (which required Ben and Jen to re-shoot them) and the ending didn't meet with their expectations. It didn't really meet mine either. But I'm not a studio exec.
The premise of the film centers around Ben Affleck's character, Larry Gigli. As he repeats a few times in the movie (in case we missed it the first time around) "Gigli" rhymes with "really." Got it, good...Very important. No pronouncing "Gigli" like "squiggly." Now that we've gotten the basics down. Larry is a mobster with a heart of gold. (kinda like Sharon Stone in "Gloria," only she was a hooker) Larry is working for a thug who is trying to extort a Federal Prosecutor. In an attempt to blackmail the prosecutor, Larry must kidnap the prosecutor's brain damaged brother, Brian (Justin Bartha) and keep him under surveillance. While Bartha is the butt of many jokes and perhaps more disturbingly, a target of Larry's anger, he holds his own and ends up giving the most impressive performance in the film. (not saying much, but still...) Brian's only desire in the film is to find "baywatch" the place where all the beautiful women go. Larry doesn't need Pam Anderson, he's got J Lo. But eventually, 2 hours later, Brian finds his utopia and were pretty sure Gigli does too.
J Lo plays "Ricki," a contractor hired to make sure the incompetent Larry gets the job done. Ricki is very much the antithesis of Larry. She is very exact and much more diplomatic and strategic with her words and actions. She quotes ancient Chinese theoreticians and reads from a book called "Keeping Peace." Larry, on the other hand, doesn't have a book in his apartment and uses his words to get him into a lot of trouble. Gigli learns from watching the wise Ricki, as she finagles her way out of tough situations and moreover he gets to watch her doing yoga exercises in itty bitty outfits. and inevitably, falls in love with her. (If it's one thing Jen does right, it's flaunt her most valuable "ass"ets and I'm not talking the old acting chops.) Ricki and Larry do share some interesting dialogue about sexuality (as Ricki is a lesbian) in which Jen's Ricki taunts Ben's Larry (I forget where the camera leaves off and reality sets in), but ultimately we see the actors falling for each other, on screen and off.
Back to plot... At some point in his career, Al Pacino took a nosedive. It might have been about the same time he signed on for this film, I still can't be certain. The same goes for Christopher Walken. While veterans Pacino and Walken do their roles quite effectively, they almost seem more like cameos. Walken plays Jacobellis, a cop trying to locate Bartha's character. He gets about 10 minutes worth of airtime. Apparently, his time is either that costly or insignificant. Al Pacino plays the very ruthless Starkman who hires Gigli's boss to get the job done. While I can question Pacino's decision to be involved in a film of this caliber, he is a master at Godfather-like characters and as such performs Starkman with according bravado. Pacino also collaborated with the film's director, Martin Brest, on more notable projects such as "Scent of a Woman" meaning, maybe he wasn't really on crack when he signed on for the role.
Originally cast as the female lead, Halle Berry, probably made the decision of a lifetime to pass up on the role and go with this summer's blockbuster hit "X2." "Gigli" will not be a hit, but in its defense it put up a fight. The film is easy to knock. It's way too long, both script and plot and unoriginal and uninspired, and all in all it felt like another J Lo production aimed at launching her further into the stratosphere. Having said this, J Lo and Ben don't let moviegoers down in the steam department. Their chemistry is electrifying and believable. (Probably because it actually is real.) The question on everybody's mind leaving the film references an early scene in the film when Ben Affleck's "Larry" tells Lopez' Ricki that in every relationship there is a "cow" and a "bull." And according to Ben, he's the "bull" (which might account for my stopping by the convenient store on my way home from the film to purchase some milk) but doesn't really say very much about anything. Kinda like the overall movie.