American Gigolo

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
American Gigolo Movie Poster Image
'80s thriller has lots of sex, violence, language.
  • R
  • 1980
  • 117 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It's suggested that immoral behavior, even if it harms no one, eventually collapses under the weight of its own intrinsic corruption. "Legal is not always right."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Julian is a cocky, selfish man who forgets that to make his living he has to play ball with some unsavory figures he thinks are beneath him. When Julian is accused of murder, the wealthy client he was actually with at the time of the crime refuses to vouch for him because it would make her relationship with him public. Evidence is planted to frame someone for a murder he didn't commit.

Violence

A man hires an escort to restrain and hit his wife, and he enjoys watching them have sex. The woman is later murdered offscreen. A man hangs off a balcony. Someone tries to save him but he falls to his death.

 

Sex

The main character is a high-end escort. Although little nudity is shown and no actual intercourse is shown, he's seen in bed with his shirt off with various women, whose breasts are sometimes shown. "Kink" is discussed. Gay sex is discussed but not seen. There are references to getting "wet," phone sex, and sex "from behind." The escort is proud that he spent three hours bringing a client to orgasm. A man hires an escort to have rough sex with his wife while he watches, a practice the escort doesn't like. A scene takes place in a gay nightclub.
 

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "c--t," "f-g," "bitch," "p---y," "hard-on," "jerk off," "dildo," "paddle," and "orgasm."

Consumerism

The lavish life of the wealthy is on display, although as the movie progresses beautiful clothes, nice cars, and conspicuous consumption morph from signs of success into signs of corruption and superficiality.

 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug use is discussed but not shown. Adults drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Gigolo looks at the high-end Los Angeles escort service world in which a handsome and polished young man played by Richard Gere tends to the needs of wealthy women. As he becomes more independent and demanding, he alienates his procurers, one of whom frames him in the murder of a wealthy woman. A man hangs off a balcony. Someone tries to save him but he falls to his death. Sex is spoken of openly. A variety of sexual specifics, or "kink," are referenced, including rough, gay, and voyeuristic bents. Naked breasts are seen. Clients' drug use is also catered to. The trappings of wealth are on display, including designer clothes, lavish mansions, and expensive cars, and it's suggested that a general celebration of the superficial is a symptom of social rot among the overprivileged. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "c--t." In many ways, the movie seems tame by today's standards, but it's still best suited for older teens.  

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What's the story?

AMERICAN GIGOLO tells the story of Julian (Richard Gere), a former hotel pool boy who now dresses in Armani, drives a Mercedes, and services a stable of wealthy older women with enough disposable income to shower him with expensive gifts. His main procurer, Anne (Nina van Pallandt), is growing weary of his lack of gratitude. He won't take certain kinds of work, he wants a bigger piece of the take, and he seems to have forgotten that she's the one who taught him his deft manners and gave him his polished look. Although he says he won't do "kink" -- anything outside the sexual "norms" -- he accepts a last-minute job from a former pimp, Anne's professional rival. A wealthy man pays him to have rough sex with his wife while he watches. When that woman is murdered a few nights later, Julian becomes the prime suspect. Julian's lack of graciousness toward those who had helped him comes to haunt him as former allies abandon him in his time of need. On the run from the police, he finds himself friendless and desperate. His world slips from one of privilege and mastery to another in which he's treated as worthless trash, underscoring exactly how superficial his seeming success had been. He pushes away the one person with whom he has a legitimate bond, the wife of a politician (Lauren Hutton), but she declares her love and offers a fake alibi to save him.  

Is it any good?

This movie is as sleek and unfrilly as the 1980s Armani suits Julian wears. Writer-director Paul Schrader (he wrote Raging Bull and Taxi Driver) brings his renowned Calvinist sense of right and wrong to a world where goodness is more likely to be the punchline of a joke than a way of life. Gere gives an absorbing performance as a man who came from nothing but learned to use charm and manners to fit in with the elite. When he asks why he was framed, he's told he was "framable" -- Julian had "stepped on so many toes" no one cared about him. The lesson in American Gigolo is that someone who shows no loyalty will end up without allies in times of trouble.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why sex is a commodity. Why do you think people pay for sex? In American Gigolo, wealthy people pay not only for sex but also for the company of young, attractive people. Why would someone pay for friendship?

  • What does the movie suggest is the mindset of a man who gets paid to have sex with a clientele of older wealthy women? Do you think he has feelings for his clients or are they just sources of income to him?

  • What do you think would drive a person to sell sexual favors rather than going into other lines of work?

  • Why do you think sex work is stigmatized? Do you think that prostitution should be legal, if all parties are willing? Why or why not?

Movie details

For kids who love classics

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