Written and Directed by Tony Vitale
Released June 26, 1997, San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
Review by Stephen O. Murray
June 5, 2002.
Like But I’m a Cheerleader!, Kiss Me, Guido is a small-budget film that plays with gay and straight stereotypes.
The sex in Guido is all heterosexual. Even in supposed “gay movies,” the gay characters rarely have even implied off-screen sex. Warren [Anthony Barrile], the main gay character in Kiss Me, Guido, is an underemployed actor/choreographer in (I think) Chelsea, whose biggest claim to fame has been a bit part in Mafia Kickboxer III. Like Will Truman of Will and Grace, he has not had a date in a long time (5 months). Unlike Jack, Warren’s fey friend Terry [Craig Chester] seeks to remedy that and goes beyond urging him to stop moping about. Warren is far behind in his rent, and Terry has placed a roommate ad in The Village Voice (I think).
Up in a Sicilian neighborhood (Belmont?) of the Bronx, the would-be actor Frankie [Nick Scotti] is working in a pizza parlor, doing imitations of DeNiro, Pacino, Pesci. What propels him closer to theatrical life is that his brother graphically demonstrates the ready availability of his girlfriend that his chunky co-worker [Domenick Lombardozzi] tried to tell him was common knowledge.
Living with his parents, Nick doesn’t know what “GWM” in a rental ad means, never having looked at a classified ad before. On the phone Terry leads him to believe that it stands for “Guys with Money,” which Warren most definitely is not. Nick (and everyone else from his neighborhood) recognizes Warren from Mafia Kickboxer III and assumes from that role that though everyone else around seems to be gay, Warren cannot be.
Warren, who does not want a room-mate at all, and especially not a homophobic straight one, tells him that he is “100% queer,” and Nick flees. However, he soon has sticker shock from lower Manhattan rental prices and is more determined about not returning with his brother to the Bronx than about spending the night in a gay man’s apartment.
Nick sleeps in his clothes and fashions toilet seat covers from toilet paper, but stays on out of determination to become an actor. There is a direct relationship between Warren’s experience in Mafia Kickboxer III and the chance Nick gets finally to act in something—a pretentious, off-off Broadway play directed by Warren’s ex [Christopher Lawford, son of Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy]. How can he play a gay part? “You want to be an actor, so act!” Warren tells him. Warren and Terry coach Nick, though he is unwilling to rehearse the climactic kiss that ends the play. There are many surprises at the première, including that kiss…
The R-rating may be automatic for any film with gay characters, or may be from the rambunctious sex Nick’s brother Pino [Anthony DeSando] has with women. This playboy is appalled at the prospect of a child of his loins being aborted, and this keeps Warren and Nick in their apartment, still not paying up the back-rent.
Although not as subversively funny as But I’m a Cheerleader! or The Opposite of Affection, Kiss Me, Guido is better (and funnier) than a number of its contemporaries with bigger budgets and better-known actors (Love! Valour! Compassion!, In and Out, and, especially The Brokenheart Club). Writer-director Tony Vitale is a native of the Bronx and plays with stereotypes of clueless, quick-to-fight Sicilians and of urban gay men. I think that there is a difference between the Sicilians’ homophobia, which is rooted in unfamiliarity with any but the most flaming queens, and the weariness of Warren et al. with straight people, which is not based on unfamiliarity but has hardened into prejudice.
There is a fine line between playing with stereotypes and being stereotypical (and thereby bolstering them). I think Vitale stays on the playing with side. I think that the way the fight scene relates both back and forward in the story is ingenious—and a model of violence being organic to the movie.
In addition to Vitale’s light touch, what is special about Kiss Me, Guido is Nick Scotti’s performance. He apparently emerged from The Young and the Restless and has both acting talent and good looks that should have led to more good roles, but so far haven’t, alas.
published on epinions, 5 June 2002
©2002, 2016, Stephen O. Murray