Gigi

1958, Movie, NR, 116 mins

Review

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Overbaked but enjoyable, and a banquet for the eyes, thanks to the visual wonder of the Minnelli-Beaton teaming. But contemporary critics have long objected that Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner simply reworked their milestone My Fair Lady. To an extent, that's true; certainly the score is a rather vapid one. Based on the Colette novel, GIGI followed in the footsteps of a 1950 French film adaptation of the story and a 1951 straight dramatic production that starred Audrey Hepburn on Broadway.

The story concerns a waif (Leslie Caron), who lives in turn-of-the-century Paris with her grandmother, Mme Alvarez (Hermione Gingold), who, along with Gigi's Aunt Alicia (Isabel Jeans), seeks to transform the young woman into a courtesan so she can become the mistress of Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdan), wealthy heir to a sugar fortune. At first, Gaston is content to accept Gigi as his mistress; then he realizes he truly loves the beauty and is determined to marry her, throwing Mme Alvarez for a loop since the family tradition is to be a kept woman, not a wife. Ultimately, however, Mme Alvarez, who was once the mistress of Gaston's uncle, Honore (Maurice Chevalier), agrees to allow her granddaughter to marry.

Caron--never the most effortless of waifs--had played the role of Gigi in the London production of the straight stageplay, and here leads the cast (she's dubbed by Betty Wand) in a contest to see who can be the most French. The winner is Chevalier, in a performance that makes one feel as if you're gagging on pastry. The exceptions: Gingold and Jeans. Perhaps if the sweetness of GIGI was contrasted with elements of honest vulgarity, the picture could balance itself out. Considering the aspects of the courtesan life, the opportunity is there, but as it is we are left to make do with Eva Gabor's continental suggestions; she's too docile to inhabit her role.

Ten minutes into the movie, you've resolved the plot and are left to wallow in lovely frou-frou. Produced in the City of Light, GIGI makes wonderful use of the usual Parisian landmarks, and benefits from extraordinary period costumes and sets. leave a comment

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