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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Gigi & Nate - Charlie Rowe, Marcia Gay Harden, Welker White, Jim Belushi - Review

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2sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD Judy Thorburn

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2lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD



Gigi & Nate

Gigi & Nate is set up as an uplifting story about the bond between a young man and the service animal trained to assist him. The first half of the film delivers the goods, but then it suddenly segues into an unnecessary, unwarranted direction about animal rights.

Loosely inspired by a true story, the film stars British actor Charlie Rowe (giving a convincing, moving performance) as Nate Gibson, a high spirited 17 year old whose life is turned upside down after he suffers a near fatal accident that results in paralysis.

After diving off a cliff into a lake near his family's summer vacation home in North Carolina, Nate develops seizures and is rushed to the hospital, where he is diagnosed with meningitis and his parents are told there is an 80% mortality rate. Fast forward four years, Nate somehow survives, but is left a quadriplegic. Unable to take care of himself, his parents have built a special glass house next to their beautiful, spacious home outside Nashville where Nate now lives, sleeps, and gets physical therapy, which is very painful. When a deep depression takes it toll and and he attempts suicide by having his motorized wheelchair hurl his limp body into a koi pond on the property, Nate's take charge, loving mom, Claire (Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden) decides to reach out to an organization that matches handicapped people with service animals.

That leads to Nate meeting Gigi (real name Allie) a curious and smart capuchin monkey that was rescued from a run down petting zoo in California where she was mistreated. It's love at first sight for Nate, whose spirits are raised, but it takes a while for Gigi to get acclimated to her new home and to understand what is going on before she begins to bond with Nate and assist in his basic needs.

The interactions between the two are sweet and touching as we watch Gigi, working hand in hand, literally, with Nate to help him get better. So far, so good, that is, until Nate has a run in with animal activist, Chloe Gaines (a one note, Welker White) at a grocery store who sees Gigi picking items off the shelf for Nate and threatens to file a complaint with the store manager. Adding fuel to the fire, photos from a college fraternity party go viral showing Nate and Gigi drinking. Before you know it, a group of radical animal activists led by Gaines, that are lobbying to pass a bill to make service animals illegal, shows up at Nate's home, violently protesting and accusing him of animal cruelty. Nate and his family are then forced to defend themselves against accusations in front of a committee at the State House of Representatives.

The supporting cast includes the wonderful, Marcia Gay Harden as Nate's ever supportive, devoted mother, Claire. She does her best with the material she's given and delivers some emotionally driven standout moments, while Jim Belushi (in a thankless role as her husband Ben) appears to be bored.

Nate's potential love interest, Lori (Zoe Colletti, "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark") is underdeveloped and goes nowhere. Veteran actress, Dianne Ladd, is on board as the feisty, vodka swigging, 80 year old maternal Grandma Blanche, who is intended to add some comic relief, but feels forced and falls flat.

To add to the drama, marital difficulties come into play during a heated argument between Claire and Ben because he is always busy working, traveling, doesn't spend much time home, and most of the responsibilities are left to her. To show proof of an animal's unpredictable behavior, there is also a scene where the family dog gets out and goes after Gigi, causing mayhem and destruction all over the house before they both are finally apprehended.

Rather than keeping the focus on how a service animal can play an integral part of uplifting a family struggling emotionally and mentally, David Hudgins' (TV's 'Friday Night Lights,' 'Parenthood') script fails to stay with the flow and, instead, meanders off in another territory that belongs in a different movie and not here.

Unfortunately, by deviating midway till the very end, what we get is a bait and switch, contrived filled drama. The movie's tag line line states, “Gigi helps Nate find what he needs most of all: hope”. Well, I had high hopes for this film that fell short on several levels. Other than the engaging performances by Rowe, Harden and, of course, the adorable, scene stealing, capuchin monkey, I am sad to report the film winds up being a disappointment topped off by a schmaltzy, unfulfilling ending.



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