When given the right material, the right director and the right
co-stars Angelina Jolie is one of the most talented young actresses
in Hollywood today. She's made some absolutely horrible films,
including Beyond Borders and her two sub-standard
Tomb Raider outings (sorry girls, but as much
as she was a perfect physical fit for the role, the scripts were
She is however one of the few actresses around at the moment
who consistently performs well: as in, even when a film is bad,
she's generally the best thing in it.
Jolie's better and most courageous performances lie at the beginning
of her career, with Gia acknowledged as one of
her two best roles so far, along with her Academy Award-winning
turn in Girl Interrupted. For this made for TV
movie she won a Golden Globe and a Screen Actor's Guild award
and earned an Emmy nomination. In both cases she had amazing scripts
and a talented supporting cast. In Gia she's
backed by the superb and underrated Elizabeth Mitchell and the
always great Mercedes Ruehl.
Gia Carangi's story is a well-known and sad one. Flying too high,
too fast into the world of international modelling, Carangi took
a nose-dive into drugs, became an intravenous drug user, failed
many times in rehab and eventually fell victim to AIDS in the
early years of the epidemic. No one really knew how the disease
was transferred back then, and no one knew what a social predator
it would become.
Carangi was also quite famously a lesbian, an oddity in the world
of high fashion. She had several important and well-documented
relationships with women, both during her glory years and the
years of her decline, all of which have been combined in the film
into one character, Linda, a make-up artist played by Elizabeth
Mitchell. Linda becomes the focus of Gia's love and obsession
but ultimately is powerless to save Gia as she hurtles towards
her own destruction. During their good times however the couple
are infectiously happy and we can't help cheering for them, hoping
beyond hope that somehow Linda will get through to Gia and the
story can end differently with them living together happily ever
after. Of course, if that happened there would be no reason to
make a film.
Angelina Jolie is riveting. From street urchin to high fashion
model the transformation is amazing. She plays both with equal
passion. That Jolie actually bears some kind of physical resemblance
to Carangi matters not at all. Even if she looked completely different
I feel like I still would have believed her performance. Gia sucked
the life out of everything around her to fuel her own personality.
She sucked the lifeblood from the people who loved her. As Jolie
chews the scenery we notice that when she's on-screen everyone
else seems that little more dull. She's the bright light - the
star - the centre of her own and everyone else's universe. It
must have been immensely tiring loving the real Gia Carangi and
the supporting cast play this to perfection.
I can't say enough about Elizabeth Mitchell. No stranger to playing
a lesbian (she brought the wonderful Kim Legaspi to life on ER)
she has this shyness within her that never goes away, even when
making love or dealing with the worst of Gia's drug addictions
and their lovers squabbles. In one of the semi-interview segments
of the film she describes (as Linda) Gia's love as being like
a puppy. Love me love me love me, all the time. The look in her
eyes as she says she did love her, right away, just leaves you
We ache for the life this beautiful woman could have had if her
life hadn't intersected so painfully with Gia's, but we know she
wouldn't trade those times for anything. We laugh at their first
meeting where she's convinced to hesitantly discard her clothes
and do a nude shoot with Gia and ends up tumbled into Gia's bed.
She's really a nerdy straight girl underneath. Gia was just irresistible.
We cry for the terrible way in which she is eventually cut out
of Gia's life after giving so much.
Ultimately the story disintegrates into a procession of drug-fuelled
days, rehab attempts and failures as Gia loses control of her
life. When she's hospitalised with AIDS our attention is finally
drawn away from Gia herself to the people she is leaving behind.
We see how devastated they were, but how her death brought both
Gia and her loved ones a measure of peace. It's a horrifying and
terrible conclusion to come to but one which Gia herself arrives
at before the end, as read from the real Gia's own personal diaries.
She used up every bit of her body and soul living a life that
couldn't be sustained. It was time for her to let go, so that
the people she took along with her could live their own lives
If sad films are not your thing you might want to steer clear,
this is about as depressing as it gets. If you do miss this film
though you're missing some of the hottest lesbian love scenes
and some of the most magnificent acting you're likely to ever
see. It's a doomed life, but a powerful and essential piece of
Note: There are two different versions of Gia
in existence. Get the unrated one if you can. The rated version
chops freely away at Jolie's nude scenes, which besides depriving
us of eye candy, detracts from the film as a whole. I always believe
in watching the film that the filmmaker intended to make, not
what the classification board believes is fit for me to watch.
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