13 February 2023

4 reasons to watch the series reboot of American Gigolo

Paul Schrader’s neo-noir film American Gigolo was released in 1980. That’s 43 years ago, so if anyone can remember anything without Googling, they have a remarkable memory. Would they have even picked up that Julian’s surname is Kay in the movie and Kaye in the series of the same name, now streaming on Showmax? While comparing the series to the movie, would they immediately recall that the star of the latter, Richard Gere, is not actually that spectacular. Other than his physical appearance, that is. The censors of the time allowed a brief peek at his bare buttocks though and it was scandalous. Great hair, too.

The eight-part series is based on characters created by Schrader – for which he is acknowledged in the opening credits – and loosely, a few plot points. The series, though, is wildly complicated and intricate, and, thankfully, all the threads are stitched together by the final episode. 

Watch the series trailer for American Gigolo

Jon Bernthal (We Own This City) plays Julian Kaye, formerly Johnny, the gigolo of the title. For the nerds and geeks, the opening credits pay homage to the movie, using the same song (Call Me by Blondie, written by Debbie Harry and Giorgio Moroder specifically for the movie) and shots of Julian in his car, driving along coastal roads.

In the movie, it was a Mercedes SL, in the series, an E-type Jaguar. The same – or very darn similar – font is used for the title. More geek stuff: six of the eight episode titles are Blondie song titles.

Here are four more reasons to watch this limited series.

1. Rosie O’Donnell

Rosie O’Donnell as Detective Sunday in AMERICAN GIGOLO, “Pretty Baby”. Photo Credit: Warrick Page/SHOWTIME.

Rosie O’Donnell takes over the role of Detective Sunday (played in the movie by Hector Elizondo). The basic plot (there are many more sub plots) is this: Julian is discovered at the home of a woman who has been brutally murdered, covered in blood, but he can’t remember anything. Sunday gets him to confess for a shorter sentence and off he goes to prison.

After 15 years, another convict on his deathbed confesses to the murder and Julian is released, triggering a bit of guilt in Sunday who becomes an ally in all the stuff that will go down in the near future. Julian’s got two things on his mind: who framed him and why, and where is the woman with with whom he was going to run away on that fateful night?

2. Michelle Stratton’s husband, Richard

(L-R): Jon Bernthal as Julian Kaye and Gretchen Mol as Michelle Stratton in AMERICAN GIGOLO, “East of Eden”. Photo Credit: Warrick Page/SHOWTIME.

Michelle Stratton (Gretchen Mol) was married when she and Julian met, and still is. Her husband Richard (Leland Orser) seems like a bit of a hardcore meanie in the beginning – sometimes he’s not very nice to Michelle, and he employs a lawyer who is also a fixer to cover up things like the death of their 15-year-old son’s teacher, with whom the son is having an affair. But, as it turns out, Richard Stratton actually turns out to be rather decent.

3. Flashbacks to Julian’s work as a gigolo

Jon Bernthal as Julian Kaye in AMERICAN GIGOLO, Season 1. Photo Credit: Warrick Page/SHOWTIME.

The series has great complexity in that it explores Julian’s childhood and teens, and through multiple flashbacks, shows the viewers how he came to be a high-class highly paid hooker. Without going into too many spoilers, he was sexually abused as a child and bullied, and in his teens, his mother “sold” him to a Hollywood madam. Mom claimed she thought it was an opportunity for Johnny (real name then) to become an actor.

4. Jon Bernthal’s abs

Jon Bernthal as Julian Kaye in AMERICAN GIGOLO, “Pretty Baby”. Photo Credit: Warrick Page/SHOWTIME.

There are sex scenes, of course, but fewer than one might expect. They range from tender and steamy with Michelle, to educational when Johnny is being groomed to become Julian, to downright raunchy in a toilet stall (but ultimately, Julian is such a nice guy who cares about the women so he finds her damage, tells her she’s got this, and takes the money to pay a vet bill). But really, Jon Bernthal’s abs.

Just for fun, here are the original movie trailer and the opening scene of that movie, and the series opening credits.

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