Gutsy 'Gia' goes beyond skin deep (From USA TODAY, January 30, 1998) by Ed Marin
*** (out of four)
Shocking, sexy and sorrowful, HBO's gritty Gia depicts the troubled life and tragic death of '70's cover girl and runaway sensation Gia Carangi.
Despite its cautionary subtext in this era of supermodel adulation and heroin chic, Gia doesn't prech. Rather, it focuses on the personal problems that haunted Carangi throughout her life--problems that might have tormented her regardless of her career choice.
In Gia, success comes quickly once Carangi leaves her childhood home in Philadelphia for the limitless possibilities of New York. But a downward spiral into the horrors of drug abuse soon follows.
Angelina Jolie--a Golden Globe winner this month for her performance in TNT's George Wallace--is dazzling as the doomed beauty, who in 1986, at age 26, became one of the first women in the USA to die of AIDS. Her performance is a remarkably consistent mix of steely strenth and crippling vulnerability. Jolie lays bare the real reason for Gia's eventual self-destruction: the exquisite pain of difficult relationships withe her self absorbed mother, Kathleen, and her lesbian lover, Linda (Elizabeth Mitchell).
The only woman Carangi forms a genuine bond with is model maven Wilhelmina Cooper, who becomes the protective mother figure Gia desperately neeeds. But Cooper passed away at the height of Gia's career, leaving her adrift.
Mercedes Ruehl and Faye Dunaway play the two mothers in Carangi's life. Dunaway, looking more refined and estoic than in recent screen efforts inhabits the role of Wilhelmina with seamless strength, though we never see the dark side the woman must have had to succeed in her cutthroat arena.
Ruehl has the tougher challenge, and her work is tough to assess. Kathleen's maddening tendencey to tentatively embrace and then wilfully distance herself from her daughter is never fully explained, though Jolie makes painfully clear its devastating effect on the love-starved Gia. Ruehl does little to fill in the script's empty treatment of this pivotal character.
Director Michael Cristofer dilutes the production somewhat with the frequend filmic fluff. But overall, Gia is as hard to resist adn as difficult to forget as its stunning title character and the woman who brings her briefly back to life.
"GIA": SUPERMODEL IN THE RAW(From The New York Post, January 31, 1998) By Michele Greppi
*** 1/2 out of four
"Gia" is too raw for children.
That is the only thing that places it between brave and high TV art and a public service announcement that does what all the clever, oblique, fried-egg, "this is your brain on drugs" spots can't do.
It deglamorizes heroin chic, and all the pretty people who promote it, without preaching.
It's the roller-coaster Cinderella tale of Gia Maria Carangi, who shot out of Philadelphia to the top of the modeling world at age 17 and was wrung out by heroin and dead of AIDS at age 26.
She was a brunette whirlwind in a sea of still blondes. She was needy. She was self-destructive. Debra(sic) is mesmerizing.
She was, as someone says more than once, "of the moment."
And "the more you are of the moment, the faster you become of the past."
Gia's ascent and descent were most steep than most.
"Gia" does an honorable job of showing why. Nearly every scene reeks of a reality most of us will be lucky never to know.
With all due respect to writers, producers, director and HBO executives, most of the credit for this must go to Angelina Jolie.
She fearlessly, even recklessly throws herself into every second. Every movement, every silence, every big, globby tear is a dare to everyone around her to keep up.
The result is unforgettable.
Jolie, who has followed dad Jon Voight into acting, acollected a Golden Globe last month for her portrayal of George Wallace's wife Cornelia.
Call the carpenters. She'll need a whole shelf for "Gia."
Nothing about it feels enacted. Not the rages, the big and little broken dreams, the lesbian (and more) scenes, the Studio 54 and the downtown shooting gallery scenes.
Oh, OK, so fashion dominatrix Anna Wintour will want to sue for being portrayes as a (gasp!) Size 12.
And Faye Dunaway's portrayal of late model-mogul Wilhelmina is enhanced less by the work she does, than by the work she's done and our inability to picture her in the real world.
And Mercedes Ruehl sounds as if she's stuck in "Fargo" instead of Philadelphia as Gia's self-absorbes mom, who deserted her children and became more pal than mother once Gia hit the big time.
These are momentary distractions, bric-a-brack that do nothing worse than gather dust in rooms filled up bya young woman who yearned for luggage and collected baggage.
Jolie seems incapable of dishonesty on the screen, whether she's teasing the young man (Eric Michael Cole) she needs but doesn't want or intimately touching every body part of make up artist (Elizabeth Mitchell) Gia loves most dearly or posing for the infamous Cosmo cover shot in which Gia's needle tracks had to be hidden.
Anyone who can't take the heat--not to mention language, nudity, sexual situations, sordidness, sadness and clinical depictions of decay and drug abuse--has just better stay out of her kitchen when she's cooking.
She is cooking in "Gia."
JOLIE BREATHES LIFE INTO 'GIA'S' TRAGIC LIFE (The Times) by Don Heckman
Line up the Emmys, the Golden Globes adn the CableACE awards. Angelina Jolie's performance as the meteoric supermodel Gia Carangi in HBO's "Gia" stands up and demands attention as the work of an impressive young talent.
In a role that takes her through a roller coaster of emotions, obsessions and addictions, Jolie is convincing throughout, the kind of performer whose central energy becomes the focus of every scene in which she appears.
Carangi's story has been well covered by the sensation-oriented media. A supermodel at the age of 18, she spent the next eight years in an increasingly tragic excursion through the glittering world of high fashion before dying at 26, one of the first American women to die of complications of AIDS.
The script, by Jay McInerney and Michael Cristofer, does not hint in covering the intimate tails of Carangi's life, from her star-crossed love affair with makeup artist Linda (portrayed in subtle, multilayered fashion by Elizabeth Mitchell) and her painful relationship with her mother (played thoughtfully by Mercedes Ruehl) to her dark, compulsive addiction to hard drugs.
The picture has been effectively, if sometimes distractingly, photographed and directed (by Cristofer) with a quasi-fashion look--fast cutting from scene to scene, surrealistic settings, odd camera angles. But when the look of the show seems on the verge of intruding on the story, Jolie makes it all come alive. Like the character she is playing, she has the capacity to move past the cant and artifice into the emotional heart of the drama.
The subtext of the story, however, is more problematic. The script's efforts to explain Carangi's aggressive--and ultimately destructive--attitude towards the world as the product of a dysfunctional familiy never quite resonates with any depth of understanding. Nor do the interview-style inserts with Carangi's parents, friends, and lovers come together with effective continuity.
Still the picture has a coming quality to it, largely generated by Jolie's intense performance, and at its best, it captures both the poignancy and the inevitable waste of a short, tragic life.
HBO REVIVES MODEL'S WILD, BRIEF LIFE (San Francisco Chronicle)
Versions of Gia Marie(sic) Carangi's tragic story have been kicking around the entertainment world for years, but it was HBO that finally had the bad sense to film it.
And the good sense to cast Angelina Jolie as Carangi, a fashion model synonymous with New York in its Studio 54 disco inferno and cocaine heyday, late in the 1970s.
"Gia" will be on HBO at 9 p.m. tomorrow, with scheduled repeats on Tuesday and on February 8,12,16 and 18.
The movie is all, at once, unneccessary and inevitable. Gorgeous Italian wild child from Philadelphia, neither small-brested nor blond, goes to New York and becomes an overnight Cosmo and Vogue sensation, turns coke head and heroin junkie, squanders everything and dies of AIDS. She was 26.
And if you think about it for half a second, maybe less, your brain will sizzle with the realization that fame and fortune can't buy happiness. Oooo, that's new.
So let's rule out valuable insight and turn to other possible resons to watch "Gia." First time director Michael Cristofer, who also wrote the script with big city and bright lights expert Jay McInerney, has done an interesting job of re-creating New York's rarefied fashion and party scene of the late 1970's and early 1980's.
He's also filled the movie with jum cuts, transitions back and forth between color and black and white, and all those other things a director can do to call attention to himself. Considering the subject and setting, though, it is not entirely inapproapiate.
Then there's Jolie, Jon Voight's strikingly beautiful daughter, who just won one of those Golden Globe things for her supporting role in TNT's "George Wallace" miniseries.
Jolie is the part of the movie that sticks to the ribs. Even in the throes of self-destruction, her Gia--wide eyes, lips big as pillows--retains an appealing freshness and animal innocence. And she is so overpoweringly needy. Like a puppy, says her on-again, off-again lesbian lover, Linda (Elizabeth Mitchell): "love me, love me, love me."
It should be noted that Jolie, and Mitchell too, are in and out of wardrobe with some regularity in "Gia." There's a lot of skin here, and it's well-configured.
Among other cast members, Mercedes Ruehl overdoes it, almost "Fargo" style, as Gia's flighty mother, while Faye Dunaway wisely keeps a lid on her performance as Wilhelmina Cooper, who hired Gia for her model agency.
ONE BRIEF, SHINING MOMENT by Benjamin Morrison TV Focus January 25, 1998.
Her name was Gia, and she didn't live very long.
In a brief, she became a famous fashion model, featured on the covers of both "Vogue" and "Cosmopolitan." She also became a drug addict and was infected with a virus she'd never heard of: "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
Gia is the single name she used professionally. The cable movie "Gia" has things Hollywood likes—sex, style, suffering and an ultimate warning to viewers.
It's surprising how effective this is. The movie takes a "rather facile) "Citizen Kane"/"Roshomon" approach, allowing lots of on-lookers tell Gia's often contradictory story.
Growing up in Philadelphia, little Gia (played by Mila Kunis) escapes to fairy tales she makes up. Her mother (the always-excellent Mercedes Ruehl) encourages her little one to aspire to be beautiful.
As a young adult, Gia (Angelina Jolie) has this extraordinary face. A handsome young man named T.J. (Eric Michael Cole) seeks her out, and the two go in search of adventure. They find it—a young man on the street who keeps staring at them. "So who are you looking at," she asks knowingly, "him or me?"
Both, it turns out. He's a photographer who knows a good face when he sees it. Then again, T.J.'s pretty cute, too.
Gia is loose and uninhibited, kissing boys and girls with abandon. She tells T.J. she really hasn't had much sex; it's all just a game.
Modeling agency chief Wilhelmina (Faye Dunaway) sees her and realizes she has a gold mine. "Take a deep breath, darling," she tells the 18-year-old. "You are in for the ride of your life."
Gia hooks up with the young woman (Elizabeth Mitchell) who will become her great love. Meanwhile, she is surrounded by people who want her—for this cover, that spread and this runway.
It is the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Drugs seem cool, part of the business and the pleasure. Gia's stoned expression becomes known as "heroin chic." When she staggers around a catwalk and passes out at a photo shoot, every one who matters sees or hears. It's the beginning of the end.
It is a credit to both the real woman and actress Jolie that, despite Gia's harrowing downward spiral, we care as much as we do. This is handsomely made and well cast, down to the smallest roles. The era is evoked well with an ironic "Coke adds life" poster and Corning ware.
The pay-cable movie seems highly pleased to indulge in views of lesbian lovemaking. We couldn't help noticing by comparison, that recurrent scenes of two men kissing seem solely for shock value and the camera quickly cuts away.
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