An oddball comedy/crime movie that might be a bit insensitive the mentally impaired, Gigli isn’t a horrible mess, and it actually contains a bunch of individually great scenes which show us just how much better it could have been. It’s ultimately a failure of a movie, but there’s enough good material here that I almost want to suggest that you watch it, simply because a few scenes are worth seeing. Perhaps you’ll be able to catch them on television or watch them on YouTube.
The film stars then-real-life couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, each playing a “professional” contracted to kidnap a mentally handicapped kid and hold him for purposes of extortion by their boss. Affleck’s character, Larry Gigli (pronounced Gee-lee), takes Brian (Justin Bartha) from his assisted living facility and brings him back to his house. Ricki (Lopez) shows up a few minutes later, informs him that Larry’s boss didn’t trust Larry to do the job himself, and so that’s that. Larry and Ricki have to babysit a plot device until events sort of just happen to them that cause reactions.
The film subverts a few clichés. Larry is attracted to Ricki from the start, and he hopes that they’ll fall in love. Perhaps he is in love with her at first glance. She is a lesbian. She informs him of this right off the bat. She doesn’t get “turned” and while their relationship grows as Gigli progresses, it’s not, strictly speaking, a romantic one. It’s one built on admiration and on similar personalities. They each like the other, but not necessarily because they think there’s a future, as much as one might hope.
Or, at least, that’s the way I read it. Perhaps some people will see it as Ricki slowly being “converted” by Larry’s charms. Or maybe she wasn’t actually a lesbian after all. Bisexuality is a thing, last I checked. And she does admit about midway through the film that she has been with men. You know what? The sexuality of its female lead is one of the more interesting things that Gigli has going for it. At least the film will get you talking.
Its characters do a lot of talking. It won’t sound natural. The dialogue doesn’t often come across as if it is being spoken by real people. Much of the time, it’s monologue followed by monologue followed by monologue. Most of the time, the monologues are on the same topic, although not always. The film’s best scene involves one where the two leads have a back-and-forth “discussion” about who’s better to please a woman, who has the better tools, and which sexual organ is better. No joke. And while it might not sound “real,” it gives the actors some fun material to work with.
Other great moments involve cameos from the likes of Christopher Walken, Lainie Kazan and Al Pacino, each of whom shows up for one scene. They get some fun lines, they get to completely steal their one moment, and then they disappear. We think about their scene for a few afterward, and what happens in the plot ultimately doesn’t matter for those few minutes. And since the plot is mostly inconsequential anyway, that actually works to the film’s advantage.
It also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I mean, if you kidnap someone with a mental disorder — Brian calls it brain damage, but we never learn if it was the result of an accident or if it happened at birth — and that person is the brother of a powerful prosecutor, are you going to drive him around the city in a convertible and take him out to restaurants? You wouldn’t if you were any good at your job, and because of this you’re going to have a hard time buying both Affleck and Lopez as contractors. They’re far too nice and likable for that line of work.
Gigli is tonally inconsistent. Its style of humor is impossible to pin down, its plot moves from trying to be a romantic comedy to a crime film to … I don’t even know. Is watching a mentally disabled guy rapping funny? Because that’s one of the film’s running gags. I think it’s inconsiderate at best, but what do I know? I just know that I didn’t find it particularly funny, and I don’t think many others will, either.
Do Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez turn in good performances in Gigli? I actually sat and thought about this for a while. Together, they display some chemistry — they were engaged on release day — but the film’s script keeps them at arm’s reach. This isn’t your typical love affair; it’s better than that. The way they rattle of length monologues is something worth seeing, and their banter is enjoyable. Justin Bartha is believable as the mentally impaired man, although his character either does what he’s told in service of the plot or slinks into a back room. He’s incredibly well-behaved for a kidnapping victim.
At the start of this review I wrote that I almost want to suggest you see it. After a few paragraphs in, I came to the conclusion that it is worth seeing. Sure, it might not work well as a story-driven film, but its individual scenes and exchanges of dialogue have some interesting things to say, and are executed well. It will get people to talk, and even if you absolutely hate it, it’s one of those bizarre movies you’ll be glad you saw at least once.