Movies

The Mod Couple

Ben and J-Lo attempt acting.

Movie still
Lesbianism besmirched in Gigli

Do Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, the stars of Gigli (Columbia), have chemistry? Of a sort: He brings out her mushiness, and she brings out his wooziness. It’s not the stuff of great screen pairings, which tend to thrive on tension more than harmony. Lopez plays Ricki, a lesbian “independent contractor” dispatched to keep tabs on a none-too-swift hood, Gigli (Affleck), who has been ordered to kidnap the mentally disabled brother of a federal prosecutor. Lopez saunters into Affleck’s bachelor pad and mocks his machismo, then tells him not to “allow the seed of carnal hope to sprout” in his soul. But within seconds this ostensibly hard-ass dyke is jiggling her tongue and giving her co-star hot, appraising looks—which turn Affleck, already an actor of amazing edgelessness, into a twinkling doughboy. Disparaging her sexual preferences, he tells her that “every relationship has a bull and a cow,” but Gigli looks for all the world like heifers in love.

It’s tempting to try to make a case for Gigli, which has already been widely mocked, but I’m not that perverse: The movie is bafflingly boring and ridiculous. Its loginess is exacerbated by the pacing of the writer-director, Martin Brest, a onetime nervy NYU prodigy who moved to the West Coast around the time of Beverly Hills Cop (1984), stocked himself a big fat wine cellar, and lost his New York edge. His last comedy, Meet Joe Black (1998), clocked in at three long hours, and he doesn’t seem to want to end his scenes in Gigli, either. Lopez holds forth on female cunnilingus (“The mouth is the twin sister of the vagina …”) while doing stretching exercises in tiny gym shorts and a bursting halter; unfathomable as it sounds, I got tired of looking at her. Brest has imported a pair of New York stars—Christopher Walken and Al Pacino—to give a couple of scenes a Method-y jolt. But no one has any idea what Walken and Pacino are supposed to be playing. Gigli turns the audience into heifers, staring dumbly.

Brest was slotted to direct Rain Man (1988), and he seems never to have gotten over the loss of that gig. He reused parts of the plot in Midnight Run (1988), which actually made it to the screen first, and now he recycles the autistic brother motif: The kidnap victim, Brian (Justin Bartha), tests Gigli’s patience with hysterical tantrums (they revolve around Baywatch instead of Judge Wapner) before winning the big guy’s heart. Gigli’s advice to Brian on the subject of how to approach women evidently makes him even more alluring to his lesbian antagonist, who finally demands some of that “sweet hetero lingus” for herself. I’d suggest that Lopez and Affleck issue a public apology to lesbians, but when moviedom’s hottest couple is reduced to gobbling and mooing at each other, it’s likely that heterosexuality has suffered the more lasting injury.