A young Afro-bearing Jesse (John Leguizamo) pulls his pants down in front of a group of young girls. Their response is a cheerleader-esque rhyme that ends with them snapping their fingers while chanting, “you’re fugly, you’re fugly.” This, of course, traumatizes Jesse and sends him on a life-long quest for reinvention. His goal is to leave fugliness behind.
I want to give it up for meta-Guizamo (who co-wrote, produced, and stars in Fugly!) for keeping the hustle alive. The movie showcases his writing, his acting, and his stage presence. For example, the night Jesse gets discovered the LOL moment comes from him pretending to be a Latina having sex with a gringo from behind and screaming, “I know imperialism is bad but it feels so good.” If this type of humor turns you on, this film is for you.
It is all about Jesse and how he grows (or not) into his career and into manhood. In college he finds the theatre, writing, and the girl of his dreams (Radha Mitchell). When he loses said girl he finds Zowie (Rosie Perez) an ambitious performer who is psyched when Jesse gets her a role playing crack hoe #3. Jesse is also very excited to have landed the part of drug dealer. (The one liners on ethnic exploitation in Hollywood are humorous for a split second before quickly turning into gum that has been chewed on for too long.) As his criminal-playing career develops he and Zowie drift apart and a chance encounter with the girl of his dreams sets yet another introspection round in motion that takes Jesse, and the audience, back to fugly-filled moments.
If you’re looking for other reasons to watch, the movie features Yul Vazquez, who plays Leguizamo’s pretty boy brother, Thomas Milian who plays their wisdom-spewing Gramps, and an atrociously-decorated brownstone. Plus, here’s another much more raunchy (and NSFW) trailer.
Fugly! is playing at CineFestival in San Antonio, Texas on Thursday, February 26. Visit the CineFestival website for tickets.