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by Jordan Hiller

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GIGLI (2003)

The night before the New York Bar exam, candidates geared up to sit for the test are told to just relax. “Calm induces performance” was one instructor’s mantra. So the experts say not to spend your last few hours studying before the big day. Hang out with friends. Watch cartoons. Let your mind wander.

I saw Gigli…which will now officially stand in as the scapegoat if I fail. When all the other rookie lawyers are heading to court, I’ll be outside the courthouse with my baseball hat yelling, “It’s not my fault. Gigli made me dumber!”.

Ok, not exactly. Gigli isn’t the equivalent of cracking a whippit, but it is irredeemably flawed – and unfortunately so, because beyond its dopey, confused, offensive, somewhat embarrassing exterior is an admirably edgy film with some shockingly refreshing doses of adult (emphasis on the first syllable) dialogue and charming (but irrelevant) performances.

Who is to blame considering a semi-impressive talent pool went into creating this minor disaster? Not onlysimchas bound sweethearts Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez – they are both hard at work being the averagely talented, likeable beauties they can’t help but be. Surprisingly, the guilty party is writer/director Martin (Beverly Hills Cop) Brest who, as the captain, must go down with the shi* (insert your own consonant).

Some movies aspire to reflect real life and its limitless variables and potentials (See, Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen). Most, though, do not have such lofty goals. They are content to represent themselves for what they are – written. Subjective concoctions of a mortal and finite mind. Within this category there are three types: a.) The kind that aim to feel unwritten b.) The kind that want to feel written c.) (Most movies) The kind that want you to show up and don’t care why.

With Gigli, we are struggling with the very delicate, very precarious type (b). Think about Pulp Fiction, or Quentin Tarantino films in general. He isn’t trying to make you believe that Travolta and Jackson are actually thugs who walk around in black suits and kill people while discussing European cuisine. He wants you to indulge in the words. Yeah, he says, my movie was written and it could never happen and nobody talks like this, but aren’t these the most g-damn interesting and provocative words you’ve ever heard put together.

Brest, who hasn’t written a screenplay since 1979, goes for that “look at all the cool words” gimmick and strikes out on innumerable levels. Here are five and then I’m out. 

Top five ways in which Martin Brest just didn’t get it when making Gigli

5.) He writes in a mentally “challenged” character without deciding what affliction the poor kid has – is it autism, a cerebral disorder, turrets syndrome? He evidently didn’t care and simply allowed newcomer Justin Bartha to steal bits from Rain Man, Who’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and any other “retarded” character in the history of cinema, thereby creating an entirely impossible and utterly unengaging crucial character 

4.) You don’t believe a single word that comes out of anyone’s mouth when they “act tough”. Jennifer Lopez is not Sigourney Weaver – she just doesn’t scare anyone. The cast doesn’t fit the script. The people saying the words would never say them, which is a no-brainer in a type (b) movie.

3.) The extremely frank sexual conversation (which people will talk about because of its absurdity and originality) has no place being here. It’s from a different movie – a better one.

2.) The cameos (Al Pacino, Christopher Walken) and their unnatural “look who’s here!” awkwardness, while a pleasant diversion from the actual film, simply add to the confusion.

1.)    You can’t combine character types from different movies and put them in the same one. Either choose sincerity, or caricatures, or irony, or foolishness – but don’t take the whole spectrum and throw them together and presume their interactions will coalesce into some wonderful cinematic circus.

If I don’t pass the bar, I’m gunning for you Marty.


 Send comments to movie editor, Jordan Hiller: |


From Jonathan Cochrane:
Mr. Hiller:
Instead of blaming your likely bar failure on Gigli, blame would be better placed on your high school english teachers who should have taught you how to write beyond elementary school level. Your substandard grammar and atrocious punctuation leave to question what law school would even admit you let alone allow you to graduate (congratulations to you on whatever scam you employed to pull that one off). I hope that your "English as a Second Language" class is complete before you start working, otherwise I truly feel bad for the first client for whom you do work and who, no doubt, will pay $200 for an hour of your incompetence.
I agree that Gigli was a bad movie (at least I think that is what you were trying to say) but I regret having wasted time (which might have been better spent doing something more constructive like staring out a window for instance) trying to decipher your belabored pontification meant to be a movie review.
By the way, next summer's bar exam is being given on Tisha B'Av so you'll have something new to blame your inevitable second failure on.
Best wishes to you on your upcoming carreer as an attorney, however short lived it may be.

Reviews by Jordan Hiller

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Pieces of April


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American Splendor


The Holy Land

Return from India

The Shape of Things

City of Ghosts

Anger Management


The Guys

Assassination Tango

Gaudi Afternoon


Nowhere in Africa

Foreign Sister



L’chayim, Comrade Stalin
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part 2


Divine Intervention

The Pianist

Best films of 2002 1992

8 mile

Punch Drunk Love


Gaza Strip

The Kid Stays in the Picture


Minority Report



Spring Movie Preview 2002

Panic Room

The Oscar Preview 2002

Royal Tenenbaums

Harry Potter

The Man who Wasn't There

From Hell

Training Day

Hearts in Atlantis

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

the others

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Jurassic Park III


Shrek & Atlantis

The Mummy Returns

Enemy At the Gates


Exit Wounds

15 Minutes

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The Mexican

Down to Earth

Meet the Parents

Golda's Balcony HERE

Tribeca FIlm Festival 2003

Daily Coverage: HERE

Photo Gallery HERE

Film Reviews:

A Breach in the Wall

Every Child is Born a Poet: The Life and Work of Piri Thomas

Paper Chasers

Resisting Paradise

MC5: A True Testimonial

Sweet Sixteen

The Shape of Things

Yossi and Jagger

Persona Non Grata

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