Showtime’s American Gigolo Sequel Misunderstands the Movie

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American Gigolo, the 1980 erotic thriller from writer-director Paul Schrader that made Richard Gere a famous person, opens with an iconic title sequence. Gere, as high-end intercourse employee Julian Kaye, cruises the Pacific Coast Freeway in a Mercedes convertible with the highest down and the wind blowing by way of his lustrous hair. As Blondie’s “Name Me” blares, he will get fitted for a classy go well with, permits an older lady to foot the invoice for the outfit, drops her off at a respectable-looking dwelling, and zooms on down the highway.

American Gigolo, the 2022 Showtime drama collection from government producer and showrunner Nikki Toscano (The Offer) that casts Jon Bernthal within the Gere position, faithfully updates the montage, preserving its simple theme track. By-product however enjoyable, the sequence is nearly nearly as good because the present will get. Whereas the unique movie captured the zeitgeist of its period, all of the collection (premiering Sept. 11) has going for it–apart from a charismatic efficiency from its reliably nice lead–is nostalgia.

A sequel that revises features of Schrader’s story and updates it to the current, this Gigolo begins the place its predecessor ended: with Julian in jail for a homicide he can’t bear in mind committing. Fifteen years have handed since his conviction, and he doesn’t appear particularly sad behind bars; he’s grown a mustache, coated his torso in tattoos, and earned a spot within the inmates’ hierarchy. Abruptly, Detective Sunday (Rosie O’Donnell, gender-flipping the Hector Elizondo position), the cop who put him away, arrives with the information {that a} dying hit man has confessed to the homicide and DNA has confirmed it. Julian is free–however who set him up? And why?

So begins his meandering, half-hearted quest to seek out out. He tracks down his outdated good friend Lorenzo (an astonishingly miscast Wayne Brady) and a married former lover, Michelle (Gretchen Mol, in a bland variation on Lauren Hutton‘s character within the movie), whose husband is a terrifyingly highly effective tech billionaire. Intertwined with the story unfolding within the current are flashbacks stretching from his teen years at an upscale brothel to the interval instantly earlier than his arrest. We watch his pathetic mom promote a barely pubescent Julian to the imperious madam Olga (Sandrine Holt), in a trite origin story for a personality who works higher as an enigma.

Jon Bernthal, left, and Wayne Brady in Showtime’s ‘American Gigolo’

Justin Lubin—SHOWTIME

To revive Gigolo after 42 years as a simple, if confusingly plotted, whodunit is to essentially misunderstand the film. Launched because the revolutionary, hedonistic ’70s have been transitioning into the reactionary, materialistic ’80s, it’s a research in ambiguity. Schrader doesn’t simply preserve the homicide mysterious; he additionally retains us guessing about Julian’s backstory, motivations, even his sexual orientation. (Julian 2.0 comes off as extraordinarily straight.) A trendy male intercourse employee made for a potent image at a time when feminism and homosexual liberation have been difficult conventional roles within the bed room. (Credited as an “government marketing consultant,” no matter which means, Schrader has nonetheless said that he had no actual involvement within the present, which he at all times believed was a “horrible thought,” however selected to cooperate fairly than “threaten an costly and futile lawsuit.”)

These lonely pandemic years have seen many efforts to reignite the erotic thriller craze of the ’80s and ’90s. Deadly Attraction auteur Adrian Lyne returned with the abysmal Deep Water. Sydney Sweeney headlined a middling Gen Z take, The Voyeurs. Paramount+ is creating an Attraction collection starring Lizzy Caplan, Joshua Jackson, and Amanda Peet. To date these tasks have fallen flat, as a result of twentieth century taboos are outdated information. Portray intercourse employees or queer folks as unique others could be disingenuous now, even when it weren’t offensive.

To strike a nerve, an erotic thriller should seize what’s erotic and thrilling and controversial within the current (see: 2021 Cannes Palme d’Or winner Titane, wherein a girl impregnated by a automotive finds a makeshift household). As a substitute, Showtime’s Gigolo circles round matters like baby intercourse trafficking and sexual relationships between teen boys and grownup girls. These are protected, unequivocally severe social points to lean on for thematic resonance in an in any other case superfluous sequel. And if there’s one factor that snuffs out an erotic thriller even quicker than nostalgia, it’s the selection to play it protected.

This seems within the September 12, 2022 concern of TIME.

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