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 
	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.