“In every relationship, there’s a bull and a cow. It just so happens that in this relationship right here, between me and you…I’m the bull!” – Gigli
Let me immediately make something clear: I went into Martin Brest’s worthless Gigli with an open mind. I wasn’t among those who found the Ben & J-Lo phenomenon even moderately interesting, let alone newsworthy. To me, they were just another Hollywood couple destined for failure—banal as can be, though they did get a few extra points for Lopez’ juicy booty. So the Bennifer factor held no weight with me, either positively or negatively. What did intrigue me was Gigli’s universal critical panning, coupled with the few rebels who emerged from the woodwork with boasts of a hidden gem, or an underappreciated and unfairly shafted masterwork. Additionally, a friend of mine in the industry watched it recently, saying that while it wasn’t good by any means, it certainly wasn’t awful. Personally, I expected mediocrity; a weak picture built up to new levels of ineptitude by the (undeserved, perhaps?) media frenzy. Armed with alcohol in case of an emergency, I jumped into the fray.
The storyline, if it can be called that: an amateur hood named Gigli (Affleck; more on him later) is hired to kidnap and watch over Brian, the mentally challenged brother of a federal prosecutor. Not trusting the bumbling Gigli with this immense responsibility alone (hmm, why was he asked to be involved at all then? One would think that someone incapable of watching over a retarded teenager for a few days wouldn’t be trusted with Mafioso business…), his boss Louis sends “Ricki” (Lopez) randomly to his door to offer assistance…and that’s it, really. Throughout the film’s ridiculously overlong two hours, Gigli goes nowhere. Occasionally, celebrity cameos (Christoper Walken and Al Pacino in a recreation of his overblown monologues in The Devil’s Advocate) attempt to advance things, but accomplish little more than soiling their resumes. Gigli himself develops only in the most trite manner imaginable: from tough guy to softie, from constantly berating Brian to feeling for him, from confidently proclaiming his superiority over women to emotionally retreating into a shell whenever he gets a whiff of J-Lo’s perfume. Brest inserts little wrinkles, such as the quote atop this review or having Gigli read to Brian from a bottle of Tabasco sauce (by making Larry’s apartment devoid of books, Brest enhances the feeling of Gigli’s cavemanish and chauvinistic roots) in an attempt to wash away the clichés, but all he achieves is taking an already wretched script to new depths.
Gigli attempts to convey messages of sexual ambiguity, individuality, and maturation but manages the unique accomplishment of falling on its face in every conceivable way. Firstly, half of its scenes are taken almost directly from other pictures, including Rain Man, but predominantly Kevin Smith’s sharp and insightful Chasing Amy. Chasing Amy tackled practically every issue that Gigli takes on, but managed to do so with a biting script and characters that aren’t so repugnant or pointless that caring for them becomes impossible. In Smith’s film, we sympathize with Holden from the moment Alyssa informs him of her homosexual preference, because Holden’s character smacks of realism and true affection. As his love for Alyssa is untainted in its authenticity, we can look past his issues and past transgressions, particularly since Alyssa is painted as similarly flawed. Gigli completely fails to address this: Larry and Ricki are unbearably one-dimensional throughout the picture, to the point that when Ricki finally plants one on Big Ben’s lips (sorry, couldn’t resist one Bennifer reference), it’s as ridiculous as if she had done so the moment after they met. The character development is that minimal; IE, nonexistent. Ironically, Affleck is the lead in both Gigli and Chasing Amy; while I wouldn’t exactly call his performance in Chasing Amy outstanding, it certainly was more than passable, perhaps because Smith’s more relaxed direction didn’t force him into uncomfortable situations. I mean, Ben as Mafioso tough guy? It’s been quite a year for him…this, an action hero in Daredevil, some moron in Paycheck…oh, I digress…
And to think, we haven’t even really gotten to Jennifer and Ben yet, and already Gigli’s riddled with holes large enough for Rosie O’Donnell to waddle through. But lest you think I forgot our dashing heroes…oh no, no, NO. Lopez turns in a decent enough performance; she has zilch to work with, of course, but she’s a very talented woman beyond her obvious sex appeal, and actually injects “Ricki” with some spunk and personality, something that the screenwriters clearly forgot to do. Affleck, on the other hand, is among the worst actors working today, and this is easily his worst performance, perhaps one of the worst of all time. Every line, every expression is a chore. His entire character smacks of artificiality; nothing Affleck does feels even slightly believable, completely ruining any hopes of a moderately enjoyable story (not that they weren’t shot to shit already). As Brian, Justin Bartha turns in a credible performance early on, but miraculously seems to improve as the film progresses. It’s also *interesting* how he’s able to hold pretty normal conversations with just the token stammer/struggle, yet is incapable of recognizing Gigli “calling” the Baywatch set with an appliance that, um, clearly isn’t a telephone.
Fittingly, Gigli ends with the purest of clichés: Ricki tells Gigli her real name, Brian fulfills his dream of seeing the cast of Baywatch (even better! He gets to dance with the cast! Mysteriously, nobody minds when a fully clothed doofy teenager joins the beach full of scantily-clad ladies), and Ricki and Gigli roll off into the sunset, even if they’re not together in the strictest sense of the word. Any attempts to perceive genius in Gigli’s constant mentioning of how his name rhymes with “really” or the frequent turkey references during sexual activity are overanalyzing at its most heinous. Beyond its exceptional unintentional humor value, there’s nothing redeeming about Gigli on any level. But for drinking games, it’s destined to become a cult classic. Any time a “jesus, did he really say or do that” moment happens, take a swig. I guarantee you’ll be toasted 40 minutes in.