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Straight talk about "Gigli'

Jennifer Lopez plays a lesbian opposite real-life lover Ben Affleck in Gigli, which opens Friday.

But you'd never know it from the previews or the advertising.

And you may not know it from the new ending shot after audiences at test screenings clearly did not like the lesbian angle.

The result: Although it's the first movie starring Ben and Jen, Hollywood's hottest, most-in-love couple, the movie has what is charitably described as lousy advance word of mouth.

To judge by the trailer and advertising for Gigli (pronounced ZHEE-LEE), the movie is a conventional love story about two attractive people who are thrown together professionally and, after a hurdle is cleared, fall in love, not unlike Ben and Jen themselves.

But that hurdle isn't explained. In one snippet, Affleck complains about sharing a bed with an "unattainable" beauty. On the film's Web site, she is described as "unavailable." It sounds like this woman is either overpriced or out of town.

Not gay.

The trailer plants the suggestion that all's well that ends up in bed, where we see the stars snuggling and Lopez cooing something about being the cow to his bull in their relationship.

On the other hand, people who do know the premise of Gigli are left to assume that the gay lady is simply overwhelmed by Affleck's charm. (How silly: He tried to straighten out a lesbian in 1997's Chasing Amy and she had a relapse.)

What must have seemed like serendipity when Affleck and Lopez fell in love on the set of Gigli must seem like a curse to the studio today. Yes, it earned scads of publicity, but will fans want to see Ben being sexually frustrated by Jen's interest in women?

That might explain the test audiences' negative reaction to screenings of director Martin Brest's first cut and the producers' decision to recall the stars to shoot an alternative ending.

The Manhattan screening of the second version went so well that Brest and producer Joe Roth reportedly came near blows.

Which ending we'll see remains a secret.

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