Kiss Me Guido (1997) dir. Tony Vitale Reviewed by: Laura E. Ruberto In Kiss me Guido, stereotypes about Italian Americans and gay men are mixed together to create a pleasant (though not spicy) sauce, perfect to top any New York-style pizza. This comedy by first-time film director Tony Vitale relies on a kind of mistaken identity formula whereby Frankie (Nick Scotti), a pizza maker and would-be actor from the Bronx, tries to move out of his family's apartment when he finds his girlfriend getting hot-n-heavy with his brother (Pino, played by Anthony DeSando) on the very night he's planning to propose to her. Frankie sees an ad for a roommate that he thinks looks promising: the place is in Little Italy, the roommate is an actor, and the man is looking for someone with money. Or so Frankie thinks. Only after a few hilarious interactions with the potential roommate (Warren, played by Anthony Barrile) does Frankie come to understand that GWM does not mean "Guy With Money," but rather, "Gay White Male." This confusion is not the only time Frankie shows off his so-called Guido characteristics--what Pasquale Verdicchio in his Devils in Paradise has called "the male version of the dumb blond" (67). In fact, soon after Frankie realizes hat Warren is "a Gay" (the odd-sounding, unnecessary article shows just how little Frankie knows), Warren half-seriously explains to Frankie that his gay friends would mock him if they knew he was living with "a Guido." Frankie is appalled and quickly tries to deny his Guido identity. But Warren won't let up, and begins to bombard Frankie with questions all meant to demonstrate that Frankie is, in fact, a Guido. Frankie's answers to: "Where do you live?" "How many gold chains do you own?" and "Who's your favorite actor" ("Stallone but De Niro's the better actor," Frankie admits) is all we need to know. That the stereotype of the dumb Italian American male is not overtly overturned here should not be taken to mean that the film wants to further this obvious ethnic cliché. While the fact that Frankie thinks that "GWM" in a roommate ad in the Village Voice means "Guy With Money" reveals his naiveté and narrow-mindedness, the rest of the film works hard to show that both Frankie and Warren are open to change and learning about their neighbors. Vitale cleverly illustrates that many stereotypes may have roots in reality; but by juxtaposing different gay and Guido characters up against each other, he shows us that each man is an individual. The film is obviously low-budget; nonetheless Vitale successfully creates many unique visual images as well as interesting characters. Even so, much of the movie's dialogue, if not its style, is a pastiche of other films, mostly those which feature great Italian American actors. (The dream sequence, though, seems like straight Fellini to me.) It would indeed be interesting to patch together all of the lines Frankie borrows from these films (such films as Raging Bull, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and Rocky). And Frankie is not the only one who likes to pretend he's in the movies. In fact, he and Warren begin to see they might actually be able to be friends when together they spontaneously break into an "electrifying" performance of a scene from Grease. While the film's portrayal of Italian Americans and gay men sometimes seems full of clichés and stereotypes, the two main characters, Frankie and Warren, demonstrate the flexibility and realism necessary to make the film critical of those stereotypes. (Roger Ebert, in his review of the film in the Chicago Sun Times, thought differently: "I wish that Tony Vitale, the writer and director, had taken a long look at his screenplay and said, OK, let's assume he knows what GWM means. What would happen then?") However, the portrayal of Italian American women never moves from the tired and sexist binary of women as either sluts or saints; and other women in the film either remain nameless or are pathetic caricatures of women who are unlucky in love. In the end, though, the film is a refreshing story about life in New York, and adds to the growing number of independent films which attempt to go beyond the ethnic, racial, and gender norms set up by Hollywood.