When two stars fall in love on the set of a movie, it’s usually a very bad sign as far as the movie’s concerned. Look at Sean Penn and Madonna in “Shanghai Surprise” or Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger in “The Marrying Man” or Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan in “Proof of Life.” When Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor fell in love on the set of the mammoth 1963 film “Cleopatra,” it almost killed Hollywood. Chemistry’s a whole other thing and often times these real-life lovebirds don’t register very high on the voltmeter, despite what might be going on behind the scenes.
I’m not sure history, or anything else, applies to “Gigli,” which is just a big mess. “Gigli” feels like some kind of sick game where you take a bunch of very talented, very smart people and see how bad they can be under the worse possible circumstances. “Gigli” has no story, no redeeming characters that anyone could care about, and the actors are all on autopilot, completely soaked with their own vanity. It’s as if everyone in “Gigli” thought that all they had to do was show up. The problem here is that no one even shows up.
The film opens with Affleck’s character, a low-rent mob enforcer named Larry Gigli, who is assigned the task of kidnapping the brain-damaged brother (Justin Bartha) of a federal prosecutor. As insurance, Affleck’s boss sends a quasi-lesbian hit woman named Ricki (Jennifer Lopez) to keep tabs on Affleck who, we suspect, will be the “cure” for Lopez’s lesbianism. He cheerfully tells us this, just in case. Affleck and Lopez end up befriending the kid and falling in love, if you can call it love. I’m not sure the makers of “Gigli” know what love is. Humiliation and sleaze, yes, love, no.
“Gigli” is a really stupid and tasteless film. For starters, I don’t think Bartha’s character (who does a bad “Rain Man” impression in the film that has to be seen to be believed) is the real brain-damaged character in the film; I think it’s Gigli. With his phony Brooklyn accent and fake macho persona, Affleck’s character is completely unlikable and unbelievable as Affleck, the actor, rambles through a bad Al Pacino imitation that sees his speech pattern change throughout the film. Even worse is the gruesome sexual dialogue between Affleck and Lopez that is so crude and vulgar that it feels like it belongs in a toilet, but not ever in a film. A scene where Affleck and Lopez compare oral sex to a turkey (“gobble gobble”) is just plain disgusting. There’s another scene, involving a crude joke about female genitalia, that must’ve been very humiliating for Jennifer Lopez to have to perform.
This film has serious problems, but more than that, I really hated “Gigli” and this is a film that inspires hatred, hatred inspires those Internet sites that are devoted to talking about films as incredibly awful as this. I hated how Affleck’s Brooklyn accent comes and goes in the film, hated the endless penis jokes and the gutter dialogue, hated the cheap cameo bits by Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, neither of whom seem to have read the rest of the script. I hated the way Lopez’s lesbian persona is used to constantly humiliate her character throughout the film. I hated how incredibly long this film is and the obnoxious attitude that exists in the film, which is to say that everyone in this film seems to walk around as if they were funny by definition, just by their mere presence. No one survives “Gigli.”
Needless to say, “Gigli” isn’t the kind of mistake that Ben Affleck usually makes, having been in the midst of a long winning streak with good films like Changing Lanes and The Sum of All Fears. Lopez can also be very good as she’s shown in films like Angel Eyes and The Cell. Director Martin Brest’s 1988 film Midnight Run remains, aside from being a great mob-comedy, one of the best comedies of the late 1980s. For all of them, “Gigli” is the worst film that they will, hopefully, ever be associated with.
It’s interesting, and ironic, that the original production title for “Gigli” was “Tough Love.” Maybe there is a curse on actors who fall in love on the sets of their films because, for their part, Affleck and Lopez show a staggering lack of chemistry in this film. They say love means never having to say you’re sorry, but everyone involved with “Gigli” should be very sorry indeed, and thankful that they’ll live to see another day.