American Gigolo (1980)
Gere Gets His Gear Off
Giving pleasure to women, I'm meant to feel guilty about that - Julian
Over the years you read things about certain movies making you want to watch them. One of those movies for me has been "American Gigolo" starring Richard Gere, a movie which having read a few reviews caused me to be intrigued. Sadly having now watched it twice I can honestly say "American Gigolo" didn't live up to my expectations, in fact I found the actual storyline rather dull and not that entertaining. But "American Gigolo" appears to not be a movie about storyline in the traditional sense rather the exploration of two pivotal characters. As such "American Gigolo" appears to be a movie which works at a different level, a deeper sub context rather than purely on face value.
Having worked his way up Julian (Richard Gere - Amelia) is now a popular male prostitute, making a living by sleeping with older women who live in and around Los Angeles. But whilst he sleeps with women for a living he finds himself falling for Michelle (Lauren Hutton), the wife of a Senator who he picks up in a bar. But when one of his clients is found dead he finds himself the number one suspect on Detective Sunday's (Hector Elizondo - Runaway Bride) list. Unable to prove his innocence despite having been with another woman at the time of the murder it appears that he is being framed for the killing and there is nothing he can do to stop himself from going inside for it.
So watching "American Gigolo" purely for basic entertainment is not the greatest experience. After setting up the character of Julian who makes a living from sleeping with older women it then falls into becoming a rather mundane thriller. Julian gets set up for a murder of a woman he is paid to bed and we watch his life spiral further and further out of control as he is unable to prove his innocence. At the same time he finds himself falling for a married woman that he initially sets out to bed for money but it turns into more as the movie progresses. The thing is that none of this is that interesting and quite ordinary compared to many other thrillers, it has some nice moments some wonderfully crafted scenes but they are just brief moments in what appears to be a dull movie.
But on the other hand "American Gigolo" has a deeper level as we watch the development of two pivotal characters, Julian and Michelle as they fall in love. On one hand we have Julian who up until meeting Michelle had been emotionless when it comes to being with a women, it's a business a lonely one at that. And although he lives a nice lifestyle due to what he does it means little to him. What is interesting is the way director Paul Schrader works the character of Julian because although being basically a prostitute we like him because he seems in some way to care for the women he is paid to sleep with, providing some form of physical service to fill a need in their lives. As such we are lead to care for him when it becomes obvious he is being framed for murder.
Then there is Michelle, the society wife of a Senator and through her relationship with Julian we watch her change as she experiences love, an element lacking from her marriage. As such we are lead to wonder whether she will save Julian from being framed, providing an alibi or will her social standing and the wealth she has end up meaning more to her than love. It's this deeper level, this character development where "American Gigolo" is quite impressive but it is a level that for many won't be apparent, in fact it wasn't till my second watch that I picked up on it. And as such those watching "American Gigolo" for simple entertainment, an edge of your seat thriller will most likely be left numb by the dull storyline.
What is surprising is that for a movie which is all about a male prostitute "American Gigolo" is actually rather tame when it comes to the sexual nature. Oh there are brief moments of nudity and a few sex scenes but it all feels very restrained never wanting to become a form of titillation. Even the sex scene where a husband watches and tells Julian what he wants him to do to his wife isn't really that shocking.
As for the acting well it has to be said that Richard Gere is very impressive through out "American Gigolo". From those early scenes where his character is built as the prostitute with a heart Gere is convincing, smooth and sexy yet never over egging it to turn Julian into a caricature. Yet as his life spirals out of control Gere finds the right emotion, thrown in to turmoil as all that he has worked for is being destroyed. The scene where he ransacks his apartment in search of some stolen property is a brilliant series of scenes delivering fear and emotion in every second.
Alongside Gere is Lauren Hutton as Michelle and she is Gere's equal throughout developing her character from this semi cold Senator's wife to one who basically begins to feel again through her relationship with Julian. It's a solid performance and as the storyline leads us to understand that Michelle has to make a decision between money and love the performance from Hutton delivers every aspect of this conflict.
What this all boils down to is that watching "American Gigolo" for pure entertainment, for a thrilling storyline surrounding a male prostitute the chances are you will be left slightly numb even disappointed by a not so exciting storyline. But if you want a movie which works at a deeper level, an exploration of characters then "American Gigolo" works. Which ever you want what is impressive about "American Gigolo" is the performances of Richard Gere and Lauren Hutton who never fail to deliver solid and interesting characters.
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