Last week in this space, we invited you to share your pop culture “cold spot” — the thing that everyone, it seems, loves but you. Come to find out, boy oh boy did a lot of you want to get that little nugget off your chest; the comments were voluminous, as previously-closeted detractors of Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, the Grateful Dead, Buffy, Bjork, Twilight, the Black Keys, Mad Men, 30 Rock, Lady Gaga, Dylan, and The Wire (okay, c’mon, seriously?) proclaimed their distaste for the tastemakers’ faves. For this week, we thought we’d turn the idea on its head. There’s plenty of stuff out there that you’re supposed to dislike; which of those trends do you buck?
And I’m not talking about that most tired of concepts, the “guilty pleasure.” It’s a phrase I’ve taken pains to strike from my personal palaver since reading Chuck Klosterman’s excellent 2004 Esquire essay that effectively puts that entire idea to bed. “Labeling things like Patrick Swayze movies a guilty pleasure,” he wrote, “implies that a) people should feel bad for liking things they sincerely enjoy, and b) if these same people were not somehow coerced into watching Road House every time it’s on TBS, they’d probably be reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Both of these assumptions are wrong.”
And it is in that spirit of not feeling bad for liking things that I sincerely like that I now admit to you, dear reader, than I own Gigli on DVD.
I realize that Gigli has, since its flop-tastic release in 2003, become easy shorthand for cinematic turkey (with a frequently quoted “gobble gobble” line, even). But y’know what? It’s not a bad movie. Don’t get me wrong — it sure as hell isn’t a great movie. But it’s worth seeing. It’s the work of Martin Brest, the genuinely interesting director of Midnight Run, Beverly Hills Cop, Scent of a Woman, and Meet Joe Black; it was his first time directing his own script since his 1979 debut film, the just-flat-wonderful Going in Style. (He hasn’t made a film since Gigli, and in an industry that keeps giving work to “directors” like Brian Robbins, Dennis Dugan, and Joel Schumacher, that’s an outrage.) It has a one-scene performance by Al Pacino at his shouty Al-iest. It has a similar single-scene turn by Christopher Walken — and it is choice Walken weirdness. Try to resist this:
It’s got Ben Affleck as a big, dumb mook, and, well, he’s pretty good at it. And it’s got Jennifer Lopez playing her most interesting character since Out of Sight — and she’s always more compelling in roles with a bit of an edge than she is in those innocuous, vanilla rom-coms like Maid in Manhattan and Monster-In-Law that she kept doing in an ill-advised attempt to become the next Meg Ryan.
But those two are the reason that Gigli arrived with such built-in hostility from moviegoers and critics, because this was the film where the duo met and fell into the PDA-heavy romance that become such a constant, unceasing annoyance in the months that followed. It was a classic example of buyer’s remorse — through tabloids and entertainment “news” programs, we couldn’t get enough Bennifer coverage, and then, in the blink of an eye, we’d had enough, we were done with them, and we didn’t want to see anything that had anything to do with them.
And poor Martin Brest was just trying to make his modestly amusing little gangster-tinged romantic comedy. (And poor Kevin Smith, who had the misfortune to hire Lopez on Affleck’s recommendation for Jersey Girl, was just trying to make his sweet PG-13 single-dad movie. In spite of Miramax keeping Lopez out of all of their ads, it tanked too.)
Point is, it’s a mildly diverting and somewhat enjoyable picture. It certainly doesn’t earn its reputation as one of the worst films ever made — not in a world that includes The Beast of Yucca Flats, Battlefield Earth, Hobgoblins, The Hottie and the Nottie, Manos: The Hands of Fate, and three Transformers movies. But there, I go, passing judgment myself. After all, as Klosterman notes: “What the authors of The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures (and everyone else who uses this term) fail to realize is that the only people who believe in some kind of universal taste — a consensual demarcation between what’s artistically good and what’s artistically bad — are insecure, uncreative elitists who need to use somebody else’s art to validate their own limited worldview. It never matters what you like; what matters is why you like it.”
Thus, we turn the discussion over to you. What piece of pop culture — TV, music, film, literature, what have you — do you hold dear, in spite of its razzing by the “insecure, uncreative elitists?”