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Beloved by males everywhere for the amount of flesh displayed by its lead actress—a fearless Angelina Jolie, who would afterward ascend to superstardom—Gia is a mediocre and overlong HBO-produced look at the rise and fall of a supermodel. Filled with histrionics and melodrama, Gia is a chore to sit through, mainly because of its wear-out-its-welcome length, but at least it's often made quite bearable by Jolie's go-for-broke performance (which, in retrospect, couldn't help but catapult her to celebrity), as well as her complete lack of inhibition in her willingness to display her, uh, considerable charms. God bless her.
Kicking off with a faux-documentary style in which those close to her tearfully dredge up reminiscences, Gia takes us on a brief tour of Gia Carangi's precocious youth, then a stroll through her bubblegum-popping teen years, and drops us off at the start of a rocket-like propulsion toward stardom. You essentially know what you're in for. It's the classic fairytale story of a young woman finding improbably wild success and universal adoration, and it's only a matter of time, you see, before everything goes to hell. She's just too young, and too sexually confused, to make the most of the sudden opportunities that fly at her. Gia is too quickly immersed in the realm of 1980s supermodeldom and everything that comes with the fame—wild sex, abundant drugs, and spectacular egos—and when the crash comes, it feels inevitable. I'm sure the actual drama of Gia's life was resonant, but in this TV movie, it comes across as obvious and predictable.
The most interesting aspect of Gia occurs after she has crashed the fashion-model scene: After an unexpectedly erotic photo shoot, Gia begins a lesbian relationship with her makeup artist, Linda (Elizabeth Mitchell), and it's a doomed affair that rings truer than anything else in the film. (Who is this Elizabeth Mitchell, and why is she not a star?) Gia's rebellious angst rubs against Linda's more staid maturity—and that's not all they rub against each other. As they awkwardly attempt to get emotionally closer, in fits and starts, they share a handful of soft-focus, arty sex scenes that are just juicy enough to hold your attention until the next one. But the film gets uglier as it progresses through its over-2-hour runtime, diving headlong into heroin addiction and street violence and, finally, AIDS. (Gia was one of the first female celebrities to succumb to the disease.) And by the end, you feel a little ashamed and somewhat soiled for enjoying the lovingly stylized erotica in the face of the horror that overtakes the film.
Writer/director Michael Cristopher (who would go on to direct Jolie in another erotic film, Original Sin) and cowriter Jay McInerney—somewhat surprisingly, given McInerney's background in novels—take the easy way through this tragic story, laying out the facts with broad strokes and never allowing much room for subtlety or calm. Gia goes from camp and faux documentary stylings in its opening minutes to hideous spectacles of drug horror and death. Which all amounts to feeling somehow unfair to the poor girl's legacy. You wonder how Gia's family feels about the tawdry sensationalism of their daughter. In the end, Gia is a film more about Angelina Jolie than about Gia Carangi.
This DVD offers an unrated 125-minute cut of Gia. It's the same unrated cut that graced VHS copies of the film a few years back. It adds about 6 minutes of footage, mostly focusing on sex and lesbianism and nudity. With this unrated version, you get a deeper understanding of the relationship that Gia shares with Linda, not only by way of more explicit shots of their lovemaking but also playful scenes such as a suggestive moment while they have dinner together in Philadelphia. You also get more nude shots of the two of them in the photography studio.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
HBO Films presents Gia in a pretty good full-frame presentation of the film's original 1.33:1 cable presentation. Although detail is fairly strong, it has a soft-edged look that breaks up in backgrounds. Overall, there's a gauzy look to the proceedings, giving Gia a certain flatness. There's very little depth. Colors are subdued. I noticed no edge halos, but I did see plenty of digital jagginess, particularly along diagonal lines, and distracting moire patterns.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc's Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is adequate for the film, which is a talky affair. Dialog is okay but breaks up at the high end from time to time. There are some yells that get brittle with distortion. That being said, bass comes across solidly. All that being said, when the music comes, it tends to overpower.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
The only supplement on this disc is a Photo Gallery composed of about a dozen glamour shots of Angelina Jolie in the title role. The shots are reproductions of actual photos in Gia's portfolio.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
At its heart, Gia is a typical cable-TV movie of the week, choked with melodrama and exaggerated behavior and overblown gestures. Those watching for Jolie's infamous erotic scenes won't be disappointed, but the film is watch-once at best.