Film Review: Gigi & Nate
Gigi & Nate
Directors: Nick Hamm
Tempo Productions and Free Turn Entertainment
In Theaters and Streaming on Demand 09.02
There are a select few stars who have gone on to great success as directors, some even guiding themselves through stellar performances on the silver screen. While the capuchin monkey who plays the female lead in Gigi & Nate did not direct the film, she does give a great performance, and I’m convinced that she couldn’t have made things any worse if she’d been in charge behind the camera as well.
Gigi & Nate is the story of Nate Gibson (Charlie Rowe, Vanity Fair), a young man in his 20s who catches a virus while goofing off with friends and diving into a sinkhole. The virus quickly becomes encephalitis, and it renders Nate a quadriplegic. In order to move on with his life, Nate is going to need to get by with a little help from his friends, in particular his new service animal, Gigi. A precious and highly intelligent monkey, Gigi becomes more than just a service animal to Nate—she’s a lifeline and a friend. This warm, fuzzy story of the bond between primates gets a monkey wrench thrown into the works when animal right activists, led by the relentless Chloe Gaines (Welker White, The Irishman), fight to take Gigi away from Nate, arguing that primates should not be allowed as pets or service animals because they are too intelligent, which is the only context in which the words “too intelligent” will ever apply to this film.
Despite the presence of Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River) as Nate’s mother, Claire, Gigi & Nate is not to be confused with a prestigious project: It’s more like a softcore version of Christian niche-market, angry conservative propaganda. The debate at the heart of the story is a complex one and not just from the standpoint of animal rights versus the good that such a service monkey can do for someone in Nate’s position. The capture of capuchins is outlawed in many of the regions where they live in the wild, and the possibilities for spreading disease is a subject of much debate. The story of a legal battle over the right to keep such an animal doesn’t inherently have to offer a concrete yes or no answer as to what is right or wrong, and an exploration of the issues could have made for a compelling and dramatic story.
Instead, screenwriter David Hudgens (Chiefs) and director Nick Hamm (The Journey, Killing Bono) have chosen to make a manipulative and pandering film that turns this into the story of a saintly young man and his monkey against the evil, liberal SJWs who get their kicks and giggles out of trying to make a young man in wheelchair more miserable. Chloe Gaines could not be a more hamfisted and cartoonish portrayal of such activists if they had named her Karen Busybody-McBitchface, and she’s far from the only one-note character here.
This is the kind of movie that believes a feisty Grandma who flips the bird and spouts witticisms like “I’d rather eat a shit sandwich than talk to your mother right now” is both hilarious and endearing, and the film literally begins with a 4th of July picnic to show us that these are good, conservative Chsitian folk. When Nate’s father, Dan (Jim Belushi) can’t get a rental car in order to get home when Nate is battling for his life in the hospital, the man behind him who offers Dan his reservation just happens to be a soldier in uniform, because … because ‘Murica, that’s why, and if you don’t love it, why don’t you go back to where you came from? The performances range from broadly stereotypical to awkwardly wooden, and the only character with any kind of nuance is the monkey.
Gigi & Nate ranks among the worst films of 2022, and the fact that it’s actually sad to see even Jim Belushi reduced to appearing in something this poorly done is a remarkable achievement. I don’t care who you are or what your circumstances are: you have something better to do this holiday weekend than to bother with this cancerous polyp on the anus of cinema. —Patrick Gibbs