Omega 13 “In defence of…”- A weekly treatise in which we analyze publicly derided Box Office Failures using granular convection to piece out the good that might lie beneath.
With the internet taking great pleasure casting an askance view on even the minute of failures in all manner of creative endeavour I thought it might be nice to look at those famously bad films of the past and revealing all the moments where they made the right choice. All movies have them, and they are even easier to see in a bad movie than in a good movie (since good movies are brimming with goodness). Kind of a Devil’s Advocate, but with a Pollyanna attitude; This is Omega 13…
Episode 05- Gigli (2003)
Distributer: Sony (Revolution)
Release Date: Aug 1, 2003
Budget: 53 Million
1st Weekend Total: 3.7 Million (Domestic)
It’s the age-old story, Hitman meets woman, woman is a lesbian, man shows us that homosexuality is a choice, Hitman and woman live happily every after. But! That is not the story that was originally written and filmed. Man, who happens to be a Hitman is weak and scared of changing his life. He has a good heart and is not meant to work in the ever bloody business of killing people. He is given a job to kidnap a kid for ransom, and through working with a partner comes to learn his place in the world- finding himself. After listening to a test audience it was fiddled with- And so we see the inherent problems with the 2003 box-office bomb that is Gigli: It was doomed to fail.
Amidst the embarrassingly nosey press surrounding the Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez relationship the world already had too much of them. Coupled with the fact that the test audiences believed that the main characters: A man and a Lesbian! should get together in the end, regardless of how much that is clinically, and genetically wrong. Ripping the movie from Director Michael Brest, the studio cut out the final act that explained why the characters chose the actions and performances for each scene they were involved in, thus leaving a confusing story, apparent inconsistent performances, and improbable ending- it is no wonder the film failed critically and financially.
But, there is so much good in this film that it is quite easy to apply the Omega 13 treatment to it. As far as story goes the film is an absolute failure- but we mentioned the why, already, yet the performances are a delight to watch… mostly.
If ever there was an Affleck film that truly shows how great of an actor he is, it might be this. His Larry Gigli is always on no matter what the scene entails. He is deep in this character that is desperately trying to be stronger than his mettle is capable. His mannerisms of what a tough guy is supposed to do and act like, just under the surface of a Mama’s boy, who dislikes violence. A man so distraught because he is stuck between his love for a woman that, because she is homosexual, will never be able to “love” him back. Only wonderfully present in the post coitus glow of the bedroom after Ricki, the lesbian hit-woman, allows him to sleep with her, he lies in bed with her asleep on his chest, with the cheese-eating grin of a boy who is in love and feels like he just got away with murder. As someone who has always felt that Affleck was miscast more often than not I found this film (of all films- who would have seen that coming?) was the one that showed me that he really is a movie star- nay, a great actor.
Jennifer Lopez’s Ricki might get the worst end of the studio meddling. In the original cut of the film we learn that she was never a hired gun for the Mob, it was her girlfriend, and in a fit of jealousy she steals the job from her to see how hard it really is- to learn about her girlfriend, and in turn, learn about herself. The scene where she sleeps with Larry is later revealed that she did it to see if she could play the part- that she believed her girlfriend would have done the same. So when, in the final act Ricki witnesses a murder you understand why the shocked reaction is there: She is not actually used to this.
“Kai Toi Mai”.
Loosely translated, that’s “the rip that takes the past.” Now, once the thumb liquefies the eye… it is deftly and immediately replaced by the forefinger. Deep thrust, hooking around and securing the ocular nerve… and then removing it with such force… as to bring with it, by suction, a vital portion of the visual cortex. The part of the brain, as I’m sure you may know, that stores visual memory.<
The extraordinary element of this move…the genius of it…the absolute poetry of it…is that, aside from the obvious wound…one’s opponent is left with no memory of anything he has ever seen.Family, friends, nothing.
Hence, “Kai Toi Mai”: “The rip that takes the past.”
As you can imagine, very difficult to practice in the United States… but I felt well worth the trips to the Chang Rai Province.
See, knowing how to properly judge character…knowing how and when to make a move…
in short, knowing who to and who not to fuck with. These are things you boys are gonna wanna work on in the future. Okay? And one more thing: Sports are all well and good, but very hard to earn a living at. So I want you guys to study hard and keep your grades up, all right?”
Lopez is lovely in the film. Not only does she get Larry to fall in love with her, but the audience does as well. Her ability to switch between someone using her feminine wiles, to then reciting the finer workings of Sun Tzu as she talks a group of Toughs out of causing a ruckus at a burger joint- and then convincing them to go to read more. She expertly portrays motherly, womanly, and strength with every breath (which one could argue is the true definition of Woman, so… yeah).
And, dare I say, there are not small parts, only small actors
The secondary characters also do well with their tiny parts. Lenny Venito as Louis, the middle management gangster that Larry reports to is tremendous fun. His disdain for his underlings, yet his want to interact with the common, regular folk- as if hoping that a little piece of the civilized bourgeois will rub off on him. Tea parties and stock markets, discussing the correct wine choice with certain meals, he feels he is above all this, but desperately stuck below it.
Christopher Walken plays a small part as Detective Jacobellis, who drops in on Larry the day after the Kidnapping because he feels that Larry must have his fingers in this. In what could be considered a walk-on cameo, Walken delivers a monologue and, unfortunately is never seen again. Story is, that the original cut had him in it more, as well as showing up at the end for the hand-off of the kidnapped kid, but again, the ever-so-smart test audiences wanted more love story and less gangster so his part was cut.
“Man, you know what I’d love to do… right now?”
“Go down to Marie Callender’s. Get me a big bowl of pie. Some ice-cream on it. Mmmm-goood. Put some on your head. Your tongue would slap your brains out trying to get to it. Interested?”
Pacino, too, has a walk-on as the Crime-Boss- he appears, reveals the information we were not privy to. Kills someone, and disappears again. Some could argue that Pacino has slowly become a farce of himself in his later films but, by my count this might be his second to last non-caricature performance, being that he jumped in to Angels in America right after this (and that was a damn fine performance as well.) Oh, he does yell, he does condemn, but he does it with such style and joy that it becomes a treat to witness. Then, adding Affleck’s reaction to being this close to the head cheese and still being shit on marks it as a scene to remember.
And here, I feel I should point out the wonderful way Martin Brest has lain out the hierarchy of the world, We start at the bottom with Larry, his sparse apartment with no books is interesting statement of a man who is lost- his house is utilitarian, it is a place that can easily be left, he obviously still considers his Mother’s place his home because he is not mentally ready to make the commitment to the gangster life, yet too scared to fully leave the comforts of the house he grew up in. Then, above him is Louis, the working class mobster, his flowered shirt, his incessant need to put down everyone below him to make himself feel better about his place in the outfit. His office is a restaurant, all the scenes where he is in charge is sitting at, or standing around, the outdoor seating of an italian restaurant. He takes phone calls, expresses his disgust with how stupid Larry is, and even talks to the other patrons as if he owns the place. But when we reach the denouement where we meet Al Pacino, the Godfather, the head of the whole operation, we see that the entire MacGuffin of the film- the kidnapping of a mentally handicapped boy- was all his idea. But, Pacino’s so-close-but-never over the top performance conveys his place as the Big Kahuna, as well as how all the way down the chain from him to Louis to Larry there is information that is not shared because they are not intelligent enough to understand.
The movie that never was is a shame, but buried inside this unfortunate example of studio’s not trusting their director over a few jobless randoms at a mall theatre may have doomed a celebrated director to a life of solitude. Where is Michael Brest? Perhaps, one day someone will uncover the original footage and release the director’s cut- maybe it won’t be that much better, but poor Michael at least would be judged for his movie and not a Burrough’s style cut-up of scenes that barely work together.
With Affleck and Lopez giving some wonderful performances, and surrounded by a cast of wonderfully secondaries there is many great moments in this film that no one even gave a chance. If anything, these Omega 13s have shown me is that almost all the larger flops were not due to the director and writer failing but studio execs proving how little they know about story, character, and film, at all.
End Episode 05
Stay tuned for next week’s episode of Omega 13 where we dig through mire to find the appreciable inside 1995’s Showgirls.