Reviews

'Gia': I Have to Go, We All Have to Go

Angelina Jolie gives an onscreen face and soul to an all too familiar tale of a fallen girl who just wanted to be loved.


Gia

Director: Michael Cristofer
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Faye Dunaway
Writer: Michael Cristofer, Jay McInerney
Release date: 2011-11-08
Amazon
“She felt too close to me. That desire to want to feel a real sense of self other than the very superficial things in this world. The need to feel that we are understood and loved for who we are.”

-- Angelina Jolie, Inside The Actors Studio (2005)

If there was ever an actress that could make a dated story relevant and captivating again, it’s Angelina Jolie. In 1998 she did just that with arguably one of her greatest performances to date, portraying heroin addict/model Gia Carangi, who set herself apart from the pack of vanilla look-a-likes by just being herself, and was thrown into the modeling world and a life of superficiality. The film opens up with a disclaimer that this is a story told from the journals of Carangi and also real accounts by the people who knew her -- or at least, those that thought they knew her.

The grainy docu-feel of some of the interviews with “family and friends” works for the feel of the '80s, which was the predominant decade shown from the unpolished HBO film. The mixing of both black and white film for the photo shoot sequences and color for the reality of Carangi’s life works well until the half way mark. In exchange for the photo shoots that she inevitable was no longer booking, because of her wild behavior, the black and white scenes transferred into the model getting high and being in an all around stupor.

While the choice of this two-sided mirror is unique, it makes the viewing of the film disjointed, as if the editors were trying too hard to make something grander from what should have been scaled down. When the back and forth of the filtered frames weren’t distracting, it was the cheesy almost painfully clichéd lines from the supporting cast (“When you have everything. What do you have? You have nothing.”) Then there was the problematic score that left much to be desired, and was mostly clogged up with an overly dramatic tone of sweeping saxophones that did nothing but saturate the film’s beautiful moments with a bad after taste of melodrama.

The foundation of the biopic is the Golden Globe winning performance by Jolie, who single handedly held the uneven film together by building the excitement of Gia. To the lost and sometimes narcissist narration written in journals (“A box has six sides, an inside and outside, so how do you get to what’s inside? How do you get what’s inside, out?”) From her sexual prowess and unhinged spontaneity that made Jolie a star in her own right. With the flicker of just one look Jolie captures the innocence of a little girl looking for love, and a young woman that was forced to grow up too quickly in the inner suburbs of Philadelphia and it’s because of this that every scene watching Jolie from one extreme to the next is just as exciting as watching an action sequence.

It was easy to care about Gia from her highs to her lows and tragic death in 1984 because of the life captured on the screen. Jolie made her worth rooting for even though most people are aware (now because of the film) of how her struggle ends.

If there was something to applaud in the script, it was the telling nature of the erratic relationships she shares with women that give a sense of depth and a real point of reference of what went wrong in this tragic fairytale. The relationship with her mother being the most significant. The two are seen either estranged or always at odds. In one scene, when her mother has to leave after staying at Carangi’s New York apartment for some time, Gia begs, screams, feeling rejected she cries, “I need you. I need you now.” which only gets a response of “You’re a big girl. Act like it.”

There’s also Linda, a closeted woman who she falls in love with, but who has a boyfriend on the side. The first time after they sleep together, when Linda is heading out the door, Carangi confronts her in a reserved almost metaphysical way, “I have to go. I have to go. Everybody always has to go. Where the fuck does everybody go when they have to go?” This relationship makes up a big chunk of the film, and throughout the duration we see the intimacy issues that Carangi goes through, and heartbreak she experiences by not being the only one in Linda’s life.

Then there’s Wilhelmina Cooper (brilliantly played by Faye Dunaway), the woman who signs Carangi, and essentially becomes the only mother-type figure that she can fully open herself up to. When she passes from cancer, the ground is once again ripped out from under the model. So we’re forced as the audience to follow her down the rabbit hole, watching a young girl who just wants to feel pretty, and celebrated, destroy herself with drugs.

From all of the interviewers it’s her ex lover that gets it right stating, “Anybody who tries to tell you exactly who she was didn’t know her at all.” A very telling testimony from a woman who might have known her soul better than anyone else. By the story’s end you feel as though you spent a lifetime with the woman but as quickly as she comes into the first frame of the scene, she leaves just as mysteriously.

Draped in a white sheet, she succumbs to AIDS in a hospital bed, alone. In the scene the words from her own journal are spoken powerfully by Jolie, “Life and death, energy and peace. If I stop today, it was still worth it. Even the terrible mistakes that I have made, and would have unmade if I could. The pains that have burned me, and scarred my soul. It was worth it for having been allowed to walk where I walked. Which was hell on earth, heaven on earth. Back again, into, under, far in between, through it, in it and above.”

It’s a tale that’s all too familiar especially with the Lindsay Lohan’s of today, but Jolie commands the viewer to watch her with attention, and to open one's self up to feeling vulnerable enough to let this lost girl in. Perhaps it’s Jolie’s instinctual performance, and maybe it’s the lost potential from a girl who sealed her fate at such a young age. Even if you’ve never heard of the model, or are revisiting it her story 12 years later, the story of Gia leaves something to think about after the credits roll.

No extras are included with this disc.

6

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

In a staid city like Washington, D.C., too many concert programs still stick to the basics. An endless litany of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concerti clog the schedules and parades of overeager virtuosi seem unwilling to vary their repertoire for blasé D.C. concertgoers. But occasionally you encounter a concert that refreshes your perspective of the familiar. The works presented at The Kennedy Center on 25 October 2017 might be stalwarts of 20th century repertoire, but guest conductor Antonio Pappano, leading the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, reminded us how galvanizing the canonical can still be. Though grandiose executions of Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome were the main event, the sold-out crowd gathered to see Martha Argerich perform one of her showpieces, Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Rather than once again exploring the all-too-familiar territory of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Samantha Silva's debut novel contextualizes the work's origins and gets inside the mind of its creator.


Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been told and retold so many times over the years that, by this point, one might be hard-pressed to find a single soul evenly glancingly familiar with western culture who isn't at least tangentially acquainted with the holiday classic. This is, of course, a bit of holiday-themed hyperbole, but the fact remains that the basic premise of A Christmas Carol has become so engrained in our culture that it would seem near impossible to imagine a time prior to its existence. It's universally-relatable themes of the power of kindness, redemption and forgiveness speaks to the heart of the Christmas season – at least as it has been presented in the 174 years since it was first published in 19 December 1843 -- just in time for Christmas.

Keep reading... Show less
6
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image