Movie Review: Gia (1998)

Posted: October 19, 2013 in Drama
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Gia Carangi is (Angelina Jolie)  a pretty, young, girl from a working class neighborhood in Philadelphia.  She is out on a date with her friend TJ (Eric Michael Cole) when a photographer discovers her and takes some head shots.  She mails the head shots out, moves to New York, and barges into the Wilhelmina modeling agency and demands to see Wilhelmina Cooper. (Faye Dunaway) Wilhelmina finds something unique in Gia’s look, and her career is on her way.  Gia meets a female model named Linda (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Gia seems to be destined for happiness.  But Gia has abandonment issues, whenever her mother, Kathleen (Mercedes Ruehl) or Linda leave her side, Gia’s fragile ego falls apart.  Gia replaces the pain of separation with drugs, cocaine and heroin. The people working with Gia on the photo shoots don’t seem to care, but soon her drug use overwhelms her, and soon no one to wants to hire her.  Gia meets with the head of another modeling agency, Mike Mansfield. (Scott Cohen)   Mansfield wants Gia to give up her drug habit, and so does Linda, can Gia keep herself clean, if not for her career, at least for her lover?

This is undoubtedly a cautionary tale, maybe too obviously a cautionary tale. A beautiful model, with a booming career and loads of money and someone who loves her, can keep it all, if only she can quit her drug habit.  Gia is ia tv movie, and it plays like a tv movie, or maybe an afterschool special.  Don’t let this happen to you kids.  And kids shouldn’t get involved in drug use, but they don’t need to be bludgeoned  over the head with such a blatantly anti-drug message either.

Angelina Jolie overdoes it in this role, and I generally like her as an actress, but she’s either angry or crying all the time, there is no middle ground in this character, Angelina’s foot is on the gas all the time, she’s in full F-U mode throughout the film. Maybe the real Gia was like that, most of the time, but no one is a total emotional wreck all the time, and besides that, it is exhausting to watch.  Her performance reminds me of Girl Interrupted, but her performance in Girl Interrupted is much more modulated, and therefore better.  Mercedes Ruehl gives a really good multi-faceted performance as Gia’s mom, she loves Gia, but is exasperated by her mood swings, neediness, and drug use.

The directing is annoying in this movie, in a movie like this, a biopic, the viewer shouldn’t notice the direction, but I really noticed it.  Jump cuts, nude scenes filmed in black and white, the same scene shot from different angles, and so the direction becomes a distraction.  The length, at two hours, is too long as well.  There’s drug use, sex and nudity, so this is definitely not for the kids, even as it tries to be a cautionary tale.

Gia.  Far from model behavior.

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