Richard Gere’s Gigolo has a mind for business and a bod for sin…
After he embarks on a life-changing love affair with a Senator’s wife, a male escort is accused of murdering a client.
American Gigolo – Trailer, Paramount Entertainment Nederland
Back in the day, we couldn’t get enough of Richard Gere.. be it as the initially arrogant but later romantic, Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), the charming Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman (1990) or as a sensitive lover as John ‘Jack’ Sommersby in Sommersby (1993). However, this is the film that catapulted Gere into the limelight as a leading man and sex symbol. In this film, he plays a man with the titular job description, American Gigolo (1980) as Gere shows all those attributes and more.
My Darlin Husband was visibly shocked when I told him several years ago that I hadn’t seen Gere in this 1980s neo-noir. I then righted this wrong and since then I’ve mentally added it as one of Gere’s best film performances and even above the ranks of Chicago (2002). This film is a very sexy, neo-noir and so one not to watch with your mother… possibly as she’s probably already seen it.
Neo-noir is described as a reflection of the themes of classic noir, but as seen in vibrantly coloured Hollywood crime based plots. Noir attributes are listed by Wikipedia HERE as
… the use of Dutch angles, interplay of light and shadows, unbalanced framing; blurring of the lines between good and bad and right and wrong, and thematic motifs including revenge, paranoia, and alienation.
No Film School HERE adds to this definition and advocates that in neo-noir it is found that;
violence, sex, moral ambiguity, and criminal activity to be at the center of the story.
This film ticks all the boxes as a neo-noir film, and as the sexy title suggests has Gere and his co-stars talk frankly about things of a sexual nature. There are substantially fewer sex scenes than in The Secret of Dorian Gray (1970), but his lovemaking scene is just as arty.
Also, like in the Dorian Gray film, we do see Richard Gere as nature intended, in this show all scene. This scene is more sexually suggested than graphic than those of Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange – who turned down the role of Gere’s on-screen love interest – in the neo-noir remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981). But this scene is just as explicit. So be prepared for more strong language and things seen from a sexual angle…
The opening shots of this film have a continuous scene where the debonair Julian Kaye (Gere) is seen driving his jazzy sports car. He drives along the Californian coast for 3 minutes and 14 seconds to a Blondie track, Call Me! (This predated Brad Pitt’s acclaimed continuous scene from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) by nearly thirty years). On the way, Julian stops to buy an expensive suit, and it’s heavily implied he has had a dalliance with the woman who sold him his matching tie.
He then visits a pretty blonde, Anne (Nina van Pallandt) at her beach house. Anne talks business, offering him a job as a chauffeur for an older widow who is flying down to California. They haggle for their cut for this deal, then she asks him how his Swedish is coming along… and offers to teach him. He declines.
Then after more driving – and that Blondie track – he’s home. We get some gratuitous shirtless Richard Gere shots as he does his exercise routine. Gere works out in some skimpy – but unsexy – undies… As he works out he is also learning useful Swedish phrases and these are from Swedish for (Gigolo) Dummies methinks. Where was I? He gets offered another gig by a man called Leon, asking him if he can fill in for someone for a job in Palm Springs.
After his chauffeur gig, where it’s implied he satisfies this older woman’s thirst for a young stud, he goes to the hotel bar. He hears a pretty blonde speaking French and makes a move to chat with her believing she needs an interpreter or guide. They then make some small talk after he discovers she speaks English.
She’s Michelle Stratton (Lauren Hutton) and lives in California. Her husband is in politics but he’s now in New York. After he tells her he knows five languages, she gets flirty and asks if he knows the international one, and asks him how much he charges.. for a fuck. He claims he doesn’t do that.
Then he’s off in the car again – with that Blondie track (again) but now an instrumental – for that other gig in Palm Springs. He is paid upfront by a Mr Rheiman (Tom Stewart) for pleasuring his wife. Rheiman pays Julian to sleep with her, with him watching and leads Julian to the bedroom where his wife, Judy is. After Julian starts things off with more gentle patter, Rheiman barks that he does things more brutally, and he demands that Julian uses handcuffs.
Julian meets with Leon (Bill Duke) who tells him the Rheimans want him back, but he refuses. He tells Leon off for giving him this job and says he doesn’t do “kinky” work. Julian won’t go back for this reason and also as he doesn’t like his clients to be possessive of him. Leon warns him about Anne and that one day his older clients “will sell him out”. Julian, however, has got a job from Anne that pays him eight grand.. and this is the reason for learning Swedish.
At home, he’s visited by Michelle. She has tracked him down and she knows his job. She offers him some money to sleep with her, purely to find out what sex is like with a gigolo. After they do the deed, she stays over. She wakes to him being suggestively flirty on the phone and making arrangements to meet with this caller. Julian asks her how she found his lovemaking and she tells him that was pleasantly surprised that it was just like making love.
Later he goes to an antique shop, where he meets up with Lisa Williams (K Callan). It’s clear the pair have more than a close rapport. He later reads in a newspaper that Judy Rheiman has been brutally murdered. Michelle arrives and she and Julian make love again (cue an explicit arty making love scene) and they get closer emotionally.
Julian meets with Michelle again, by accident, while he’s an escort to an older client for a Senator’s function. He’s introduced to her husband, Charles (Brian Davies) and Julian asks his “date” about the state of the Strattons’ marriage. It’s clear he’s falling for Michelle…
Julian is approached and questioned by Detective Joe Sunday (Hector Elizondo). Sunday suspects him of Judy’s murder. He tells him that this murder showed signs of a sex crime and that he was seen at the scene of this murder.
Julian is the prime suspect as there was evidence of the use of handcuffs and rape. Also Julian’s alibi, Lisa Williams has lied saying that she wasn’t with him at the time of the murder. Her alibi is supported by her super rich husband. Julian believes he is being framed… but by who? And why?
Others offered this gigolo role included Christopher Reeve – yes Superman!!! – and John Travolta. Travolta took the role, but then backed out at the last minute. It would be hard to see either of these actors in this role, especially Travolta. Gere oozes sexual charisma from every pore and is more credible as a high-class gigolo compared with those actors. Although I’ll admit Reeve does have charisma, it’s less sexually potent with Gere’s more blatant sex appeal.
I believe that Julian is clearly innocent of the crime, as in scenes where he is seen with women – such as Mrs Rheiman – that he is more tender and gentle. It appears that he takes a different less sadomasochistic approach to his job. He only follows those “kinky” orders to please her husband, and Julian berates Leon for putting him forward for this type of gig.
His lovemaking approach is clearly different from the killer’s. This is confirmed in Julian’s morning-after scene with Michelle, where she tells him being with a gigolo was like making love. Despite his warm facade with these women, he doesn’t want to be possessed by them. And it is here you feel his relationship with Michelle is different to those other women he “works” with. He says that he doesn’t want to be possessed by them and he spends more and more time and talks with Michelle more candidly and naturally.
He appears to have a niche as he only takes gigs from married or widowed, rich older women. He talks quite frankly about the morals related to his job with Sunday. Julian says he knows his job is illegal but he argues it doesn’t mean it is not right as he makes these women happy and he provides a service.
He is always concerned with his appearance and is a well-known man about town as doormen and others recognise him and these women clearly adore him. It’s also clear it’s always business first for him and his apartment looks like he’s just moved in – he says he doesn’t do his business there – but his suits are ready to slip into as neatly pressed and organised.
In scenes, we see Julian as he swans about town with his always immaculate good looks and fit body swathed in Armani suits. He lives in a plush apartment, his expensive sports car and has superrich “dates”. He’s like a walking advertisement for his services, and he knows it and he learns languages and keeps fit to maintain his lifestyle.
His hair is styled perfectly and neatly shaved, There is a wonderful montage scene as he prepares for a date, where his neatly folded and pressed wardrobe is seen as he selects his suit for the night. He also has his bicycle and gym equipment makes a sharp contrast to the later scenes where he is unshaven and his hair is amok, as he tries to find out who framed him. Especially as Ebert says HERE that Sunday is;
“a cigar-chomping vice detective who cheerfully admits he thinks Gere is guilty as sin.”
After Sunday tells Julian he is the prime suspect, neo-noir tropes are seen and felt fast and furiously. Julian takes less care in his appearance and he is seen to be more and more paranoid and untrusting with others. He questions his employers and visits Lisa to ask about his alibi. He ransacks his apartment and destroys his belongings to look for planted “evidence” that could be used to frame him.
He ruthlessly destroys his expensive car, stereo and expensive belongings. As a prime suspect, he is alienated and discarded by his employers and the rich women he works with, he becomes violent towards others. You feel his desperation and loneliness, as even Michelle wants to take a break from their relationship. And it seems he is well and truly screwed, as the evidence mounts…
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦😦 😦 😦😦/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: / 10
Cinema Shame, January 2022
This review was for my January entry for this year long challenge. Hector Elizondo also starred in Tales from the Crypt, The Princess Diaries, Beaches The Lego Batman Movie, Runaway Bride, Overboard and Pretty Woman. Richard Gere in Chicago, Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride. K Callan in Dallas, Quantum Leap, Moonlighting and This House Possessed. Bill Duke in Charlie’s Angels.