Wednesday, August 20, 1997

Star-crossed roommates

A comedy of manners in which Gay Guy meets Italian Stallion.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 1997 at 12:00 AM

For his debut film, Kiss Me, Guido, writer-director Tony Vitale puts a contemporary spin on "The Odd Couple" formula by throwing together a pair of very unlikely New York City roommates. Budding thespian Frankie (Nick Scotti) is from an old-school Italian family in the Bronx and sports enough trappings of its macho aesthetic (slicked hair, gold chains) to be derisively labeled a "Guido." He moves into the West Village apartment of Warren (Anthony Barrile), a gay actor whose moderate success onstage and in low-budget films (Frankie's favorite: Mafia Kickboxer III) still leaves him scrambling for rent.

What could this duo, brought together by fate and a misinterpreted personals ad (wherein GWM means not gay white male but "guy with money"), possibly have in common? Vitale starts out with the obvious -- prejudice and disco -- then slyly digs deeper.

He does this by using broad stereotypes, then having their interactions reveal more than they intend. In an early sequence, Frankie's brother Pino (Anthony DeSando) -- who fancies himself a Grade-A Sicilian stud -- dry-heaves at the sight of a gay man kissing the cheeks of two male friends at a Manhattan sidewalk cafe. When Pino then kisses two older Italian men he encounters sitting outside a cafe in the Bronx, he doesn't see the parallel but the audience does.

While this satirical approach provides something to offend everyone involved, Vitale treats the cloistered Italian family and insular gay community with equal doses of irreverent respect. He also employs a steady stream of comic misunderstandings to fuel this fast-paced farce.

Performances range from over the top (Molly Price's wired landlady) to barely there (Christopher Lawford as Warren's playwright-ex), but the two principals and a surprisingly loose Craig Chester (Swoon, Grief) keep things on an even keel.

In Kiss Me, Guido, Tony Vitale mines humor from the specific habits and beliefs of his characters. Warren, coaching a reluctant Frankie for his stage debut in an experimental gay play, chastises him with an acting reference that he is sure to understand: "Are you Al Pacino or Tony Danza?"

Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at letters@metrotimes.com.

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