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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Gigli (review)

It’s Turkey Time

(Worst of 2003)

Have you not been making your required four-times-a-day supplication to Ben-and-Jen, wherein you turn to face Hollywood and think good thoughts that they actually survive as a gossip-worthy couple till their wedding? There’s really no excuse for not worshipping the adorably cutesy-poo celebrity cuddlekins of the moment, but if you haven’t, you can make up for it by taking in Gigli at least three times this weekend.

I know, I know: There are microbes living under the permafrost on Mars who plug their fingers in their ears at the merest mention of Ben-and-Jen and scream “No more! I just can’t take it anymore!” But it must be acknowledged that celebrities are simply better than you and me, their lives far more exciting and interesting than our own dull ones. There’s no fighting it — just give in and see how much more pleasant it is to worry about the happiness of someone famous and important for a change instead of worrying about your own stupid and boring self.

The three sad, pathetic people out there who are not acolytes of Ben-and-Jen, for instance, may ignore Gigli, just dismiss it as, you know, “another movie about famous people in love, like we care,” but it’s vital to understand that this is the movie where they met for the first time. They weren’t “famous people in love” on the first day they walked onto the set, separately, as Jennifer Lopez (Maid in Manhattan, Enough) and Ben Affleck (Daredevil, The Sum of All Fears), two individual famous people. No, this was their introduction to each other’s fabulousness and fame. This was where they began the process of being “famous people in love.” This was the beginning of everything that is Ben-and-Jen.

And you will hear people — unbelievers, apostates, blasphemers — say that the film is not very good, or bad, or godawful, or so misbegotten you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scream, you’ll sigh, respectively, with derision, in agony, with terror, and in exasperation. And it is. But it’s not the fault of Ben-and-Jen. Of course it isn’t. We can quite clearly lay the blame upon writer/director Martin Brest (Meet Joe Black), because he is nowhere near as famous and certainly nowhere near as fabulous as Ben-and-Jen. He’s the one who came up with stuff like the main character, Larry Gigli, which rhymes with “really,” as in “really not very good,” “really bad,” really godawful,” and “really misbegotten.” Brest is the one who came up with the idea that Larry is from the Brooklyn part of Southern California, a rent-a-thug who uses a lotta deses and dems even though he grew up in the land of sunshine and palm trees. I mean, Ben would never have come up with that accent on his own. Brest is the one who came up with the idea of a lady lesbian thug called Ricki (and came up with the idea of her sorta of masculine name, too, I’m sure) who can’t help but fall in love with Larry because what girl wouldn’t want a real man?

Yes, Ben-and-Jen are saying the words Brest wrote for them, all the sort of pseudo European arthouse character drama dialogue about the philosophies of the male and female approaches to sex as a way of pretending that they’re not really madly in love with each other from the moment they meet (Larry and Ricki, that is, not Ben-and-Jen). But notice how Ben-and-Jen triumph, how he doesn’t bust out laughing when required to say things like “In every relationship dere’s a bull and a cow,” and she doesn’t crack up when likening the penis to “a sea slug or a really big toe.” Best of all is when neither of them loses it when Ricki invites Larry to pleasure her orally: “It’s turkey time,” says she. “Huh?” says he. “Gobble, gobble,” says she.

And it certainly is not Ben-and-Jen’s fault that Brest would take two such usually fine and entertaining actors as Christopher Walken (Kangaroo Jack, Catch Me If You Can) and Al Pacino (The Recruit, Simone) and invite them to throw their careers in the toilet. In one-scene cameos that could only be called aggressive rampages, Walken and Pacino — as, respectively, a cop and a mobster — are so relentlessly awful that it appears that Brest gave free rein to their excessive personalities, stepping away and indulging them as if to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the genius that is Christopher Walken/Al Pacino!” In fact, not only can you not blame Ben-and-Jen for this, they probably weren’t even on the set during the five minutes Brest took to film the initial walk-throughs of Walken’s and Pacino’s scenes before calling it a day.

That Ben-and-Jen’s relationship could blossom under such conditions surely is all the more reason they are worthy of the worship of mere mortals such as you and me. So kneel down and express your devotion. It’s turkey time. Gobble, gobble.


MPAA: rated R for sexual content, pervasive language and brief strong violence

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

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