Julian Kaye, portrayed in the film “American Gigolo” by Golden Globe winner Richard Gere (Chicago), is in the business of giving pleasure; for the right price. His clientele consists mainly of wealthy, older women. Married, divorced, widowed, and lonely women, all utilize the erotic services of the young, well groomed, physically fit, Armani clad, Julian. The common theme that seems to bind them all together, is they want Julian to remind them, what it once was like during a time in their life, when they felt wanted and desired.
The viewer is introduced to Julian, at the start of the film, as he drives his two-door, black, convertible, Mercedes Benz Coup 450 SL, along the California coast line. The song “Call Me” by Blondie plays throughout the montage. He eventually arrives at his destination, the house of Anne (Nina Van Pallandt). She is the person, who he receives his jobs from. Anne gives Julian opportunities that offer him high financial returns. For example, Julian, who it is made known to the viewer, already knows several languages, and is willing to learn Swedish. A special client is flying in from Scandinavia for an evening that Anne will charge $20,000 for services rendered. In 2022, that money would be equivalent to over $72,000. Money aside, there is a tension that exists between Anne and Julian. She doesn’t like that he doesn’t exclusively work for her. He also takes a larger cut than any of her other employees. One of the people that Julian gets other jobs from is Leon (Bill Duke). Leon has warned Julian on several occasions, that one day, the ladies that so seemingly adore him, will turn on him, if it means covering up for their actions. Julian, as has hinted in the past, dismisses the comment. He does, however, take the job given to him by Leon.
Julian arrives at the home of Mr. Rheiman (Tom Stewart), and his wife Judy (Patricia Carr). He makes it clear that he will not have sex with Mr. Rheiman. The couple, however, is not interested in a threesome. Mr. Rheiman wants to watch Julian have sex with Judy. The request is something Julian acquiesces to. As he begins to have sex with Judy, it becomes evident to the viewer, based on what Mr. Rheiman asks Julian to do, that he wants to watch Julian do things to his wife, that aren’t the norm.
After the job, Julian leaves the Rheimans and forgets about them. They were merely a means to more money for him. Unbeknownst to Julian, he is about to meet Michelle Stratton (Lauren Hutton), the wife of Senator Charles Stratton (Brian Davies). Before he knows who she is, she partakes of his escort services. Unlike the others who have come before her, Julian falls in love with Michelle. Their romance is in danger of being short lived. As it turns out, Judy Rheiman has been murdered. Detective Sunday, a role acted by Emmy winner Hector Elizondo (Chicago Hope), begins to investigate Julian. As Leon predicted, the ladies who were so enthralled with Julian’s ability to please them, are not coming to his defense in his time of need.
Did Julian take the requests of Mr. Rheiman too far, and accidently kill Judy? Is Julian being framed for her murder? If so, who set him up? How does Michelle factor into the rest of the story, once Julian’s accused of murder? All of those questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion.
Trivia buffs take note: Two time Golden Globe and Emmy winner John Travolta (American Crime Story), and BAFTA, Emmy, and Grammy winner Christopher Reeve (Superman), each turned down the role of Julian Kaye. The film’s signature song “Call Me” by Blondie went to number one in both the UK and America. Grammy winner Stevie Nicks (Rumors), was asked before Blondie to compose, sing, and record the main title song, but couldn’t because she had recently signed a solo contract. Oscar winner Julie Christie (Darling), was originally going to play Michele, but dropped out, when she thought that John Travolta had replaced Gere. Golden Globe winner Harrison Ford (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Emmy winner Arnold Schwarzeneggar (Years of Living Dangerously), and Golden Globe winner Sylvester Stallone (Creed), amongst others, were considered for the role of Julian Kaye.
“American Gigolo” was written and directed by two time Golden Globe and Oscar nominee Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver). Three time Oscar winner Giorgio Moroder (Top Gun) composed the film’s music, which helps to heighten the dramatic and tension filled moments throughout the movie. The film premiered theatrically in America, on February 1, 1980. Parts crime, drama, mystery, romance, and thriller, the film has a runtime of 117 minutes.
Certainly a product of its time, but no less interesting to watch, at least for a one time viewing. I had had the film on my ‘to be watched list’ for many years, but only finally got around to it last week. It was entertaining, well acted, and the music went perfectly with what was transpiring on screen. I didn’t know much about the movie, other than some of the members of the cast, before I watched it, which turned out to be a good thing. I liked how the film is almost two movies, the one that showcases Julian’s life prior to the murder, and the second half, which deals with his desperate attempt to clear his name after he’s accused. As of the writing of this post, “American Gigolo” is streaming on Amazon.