Director: Alfredo De Villa
I absolutely deplore movies where the protagonist has a euphoric out-of-body-experience and their life lessons are just told to them. God damn it, you have to earn that. Gifted moral-of-the-stories make me lose hope. Am I really going to progress as a human if I can just get hit on the head during a bender and have my deceased uncle tell me what to do? Do you learn anything if it’s just given to you? Has Jesse turned a corner in his life or is he just going to make the same mistakes now that he’s received instant gratification?
“Fugly!” is the quasi-autobiographical story of “John Leguizamo.” Leguizamo plays a stage comedian and actor insecure about his rampaging urge for attention. Growing up he was declared “fugly” because of his awkward demeanor and ho-hum appearance. His demeaning brother however, is a handsome casanova that just has a natural magnetic charisma. Then while attending college he finds a passion in performing and the love of his life, Lara (Radha Mitchell). She’s a fairly one-dimensional romantic interest, but their one night stand is amazing enough to haunt Jesse for the rest of his life.
Anyway, flash forward 30 years and Jesse is a well-to-do character actor. Even though he seemingly has everything he wants in life, Jesse is exceedingly unsatisfied. His girlfriend, Zowie (Rosie Perez), is a manipulative harpy abusing his B-list fame, his film roles consist of nothing more than trite stereotypes, and his writing is uninspired rambling. After Zowie cheats on Jesse, Lara pops back up in Jesse’s life. Lara is currently dating someone, but Jesse’s allure makes her ultimately ditch that totally well adjusted and kind guy. Jesse and Lara start dating, but Jesse’s struggle with self-worth still lingers.
So, what’s the deal with “Fugly!?” What’s it ultimately about? I’m not sure and I’m not sure if it does either. I wouldn’t say this is a carbon copy biography of Leguizamo, but I would say it seems like he tried to evoke an emotional biography. The same struggle for identity and self-worth Leguizamo has been clawing for is depicted through Jesse. Since Jesse was never really sure of himself, neither is the film. It just seems to pander to whatever themes fit the scenario.
Sometimes whimsical and sometimes dogmatic, “Fugly!” just kind of putters around to find itself. It’s a harsh mishmash of tropes slammed into one romantic comedy. Which leads me to…
Jesse eventually loses Lara. He was too non-committal and narcissistic to be beyond anything than a fling. So he decides to commit suicide. He calls Lara one last time to beg her to take him back, but Lara’s reluctance drives him to attempt ending his life. She runs to him, he has an out-of-body experience, and his brother saves his life. Then everything is amazing. Lara comes back to him, he has a Woody Allen like epiphany (life’s generally unsatisfying and that’s okay), and he goes back to work.
Wait, that worked? By trying to overcome his inflated hubris, he does the most attention clamoring act possible and….it works? I feel like that’s just going to enable his egotistical persona. He pretty much guilt tripped Lara back to him. How long will that attention high last?
This movie’s not bad by any means. It’s performed well, looks fairly sharp, and has a ton of potential. I feel like its heart was in the right place and had a lot of poignant things to say. It just lacked the means of articulation. Overall, it’s uncomfortable to watch a movie about a guy begging for sympathy and attention when he’s trying to tell me not to beg for attention. And seeing an insecure and selfish act ultimately prevail is down right skin crawling and irresponsible. It’s hard to sympathize with someone surrounded by money, fame, friends, family, and opportunity.
– It is nice to see John Leguizamo star in something. He can carry a movie.
– Perez and Leguizamo make me look forward to 50.
– Radha Mitchell is a gorgeous woman, but her IMDB photo is not flattering.
– Cool use of Bill Plympton. Good career, that guy. He’s living the dream.