Sunday, January 14, 2007

Movie Review: Gia: The Tragic Story of a Supermodel 4 Stars

In an Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated performance, Angelina Jolie beautifully plays the title role in Gia, an HBO Pictures biopic on the life of Gia Carangi, arguably the world’s first bad-girl supermodel, who lived fast and died young and looked pretty along the way.

This slick TV drama painfully traces the tumultuous rise and fall of the exotic, raven-haired beauty. Discovered by fashion maven, Wilhelmina Cooper (Faye Dunaway), Gia, still a teenager, becomes an almost instant hit, representing radical otherness in a 1970s high-fashion world dominated by fresh-faced, vapid blondes. From a less-than-glamorous suburban upbringing, Gia is catapulted into the New York pop scene. Prone to violent moodswings and outbursts of brattiness (in an early scene, she pulls a knife on her live-in boyfriend), her exposure to the excesses of fame send her spiraling into an abyss of self-destructive sexual encounters and drug abuse.

Early in her career, Gia begins a doomed lesbian relationship with a makeup artist, Linda (Elizabeth Mitchell). Becoming obsessed with Linda and consumed by depression, Gia develops a distinct hatred for modeling and battles a nasty heroin addiction. She eventually kicks the habit, but soon discovers she has contracted the then-rare HIV. (She died in 1986 at 26). At the heart of the story is a horribly dysfunctional relationship with her mother, Kathleen, (Mercedes Reuhl) who passive-aggressively enables all of her daughter’s worst habits.

Wonderful performances by Jolie, Dunaway, Mitchell, Reuhl and Kylie Travis illuminate this tragic film. Michael Cristofer stylishly directs from an adaptation of Stephen Friend’s biography Thing of Beauty.

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