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Weekly Alibi Kiss Me Guido

Shades of Gay

By Devin D. O'Leary

AUGUST 18, 1997:  Gay people, I suppose, are as funny as anyone else. Hollywood tends to think, however, that they're more funny than anyone else. How else do you explain the fact that every romantic heroine in Hollywood (from Alicia Silverstone in Clueless to Julia Roberts in My Best Friend's Wedding) is saddled with a colorful gay sidekick? Gay friends, gay neighbors, gay costume designers: They can all be counted on for a catty, cutting or laugh-out-loud bitchy remark. Even when films are made by and for the gay community (Love! Valour! Compassion! for example), you can always count on at least one flamboyant Julie Andrews fan to show up and enliven the proceedings with his witchy observations. Even gay America seems content to live with the stereotypes. The new low-budget New York-set comedy Kiss Me Guido is little exception.

First-time writer/director Tony Vitale has already hit the lights of Hollywood thanks to Kiss Me Guido. This shoestring art flick made some waves at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and Paramount Pictures (of all people) snapped it up for distribution. Kiss Me Guido tells the story of Frankie (Nick Scotti), a young Italian pizza-maker/would-be actor (his entire acting career consists of quoting lines from Scorsese movies). When Frankie discovers his wife-to-be cheating on him with his own brother, he packs up his stuff and moves out of his family home. Desperate and homeless on the streets of the Bronx, Frankie turns to the want ads. There, he finds a "GWM" looking for a roommate. Taking "GWM" to mean "Guy With Money," Frankie finds himself moving in with Warren (Anthony Barrile), a decidedly gay off-Broadway choreographer. Before you can say "The Odd Couple," our two protagonists are fighting, bonding and culture clashing all over the screen.

Tony Vitale is trying to make a joke here about stereotypes. Gosh, aren't gays and Italians both so stereotyped in movies? Of course they are. Unfortunately, this film doesn't offer much above and beyond those same old stereotypes. Frankie conquers his homophobia and learns to be a real actor, but he never becomes more than about 2 1/2 dimensional. Similarly, Warren learns to break out of his "gay community" shell and stand up for himself a little bit more, but he's still a mincing Julie Andrews-loving queer. Ultimately, Kiss Me Guido trowels on its clichés with a leaden hand. Vitale, at least, has an ear for dialogue and an eye for the world around him. His hometown of Little Italy is visualized as realistically as in any Scorsese film. Unfortunately, as a writer, Vitale lacks the experience to make his satire sing. Mind you, there are plenty of laughs along the way. But all the jokes are painted in such broad strokes. Much of your appreciation of this film will depend on how clever you find that "GWM" joke.

Gay comedies can be funny (La Cage Aux Folles) or embarrassing (Partners). The line separating the two is often pretty fine. Kiss Me Guido is at least sincere about its subject matter and treats all its characters (gay or straight) without animosity. Of course, if Tony Vitale wanted to make a really radical film, he should've made a movie about gay people who weren't funny. Until we get some gay science fiction, some gay westerns and a gay buddy cop thriller or two, I suppose Kiss Me Guido is the best that filmgoers can hope for.

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