Friday July 18, 1997
If Tony Vitale's "Kiss Me, Guido" isn't quite the laff riot its trailer suggests, it nonetheless abounds in good-hearted humor, adding up to a perfectly pleasant summer diversion.
What's significant is that Vitale successfully discards political correctness and instead embraces both Italian American and gay stereotypes with so much affection you can laugh out loud at them. At the same time he takes care to suggest how a gay man might actually be a regular guy.
What makes the movie work, however, is its star Nick Scotti, up from the ranks of fashion modeling and acting in the soaps. Scotti is flat-out terrific.
As Frankie, a Bronx pizza parlor worker, he somehow manages to convince us that this young man is absolutely unaware of his good looks. He is then able to make us believe that Frankie is so naive that he thinks that a "GWM" designation in a Village Voice want ad means "Guy With Money." Vitale has amusingly supplied Frankie with strong motivation for wanting to leave home in Belmont, the Little Italy of the Bronx, and answer a roommate ad for an apartment to share in the West Village.
The ad has been placed by Warren (Anthony Barrile), an actor-choreographer who's a whopping five months behind on his rent and faces eviction. Frankie reels from the shock of discovering that "GWM" means Gay White Male, but Vitale is clever enough to think up circumstances dire enough for Frankie and Warren to attempt to make sharing the apartment work, which neither wants to do. That Frankie dreams of being an actor himself helps. (He can do a pretty good Robert De Niro "Raging Bull" impersonation but admits his hero is Sylvester Stallone.)
"Kiss Me, Guido" is often silly, but Vitale makes silliness fun because he doesn't pretend it's otherwise and because he's good at thinking up plot twists. "Kiss Me, Guido" is highly theatrical--indeed, at one point Vitale tried to get it staged as a play--but it flows like the movie it is.
Although Frankie and Warren are the film's focal point, there are plenty of colorful, expertly played supporting characters. Anthony DeSando is Pino, Frankie's irrepressible satyr of a brother--it's this character's seduction of women that, along with blunt language, accounts in large part for the film's R rating.
Craig Chester is Warren's wisecracking best friend--it's the Eve Arden role; Christopher Lawford is Warren's tweedy ex-lover and roommate, an aspiring playwright; and Molly Price is Warren's mercurial landlady. Rounding out the key players are David Deblinger as Lawford's ultra-pretentious colleague and Domenick Lombardozzi as Frankie's sweet-natured co-worker back at the pizza parlor.
Amid a raft of vivid presences, Warren, well-played by Barrile, is at times in danger of seeming colorless. Yet it is key to Vitale's point that friendship, after all, can exist between an ordinary gay man and an ordinary straight man. Although neither as exuberant nor remotely as innocent as Frankie, Warren is as much a normal, everyday man as Frankie is. They could just end up pals.
Kiss Me, Guido, 1997. R, for sexuality and strong language. A Paramount Pictures presentation in association with Kardona/Swinsky Films and Capitol Films of a Redeemable Features production. Writer-director Tony Vitale. Producers Ira Deutchman, Christine Vachon. Executive producers Jane Barclay, Tom Carouso, Sharon Harel, Christopher Lawford. Cinematographer Claudia Raschke. Editor Alexander Hall. Costumes Victoria Farrell. Music supervisor Randall Poster. Production designer Jeffrey Rathaus. Set decorator Wanda Wysong. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. Nick Scotti as Frankie. Anthony Barrile as Warren. Craig Chester as Terry. Molly Price as Meryl. Christopher Lawford as Dakota.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun