Gigi Movie Review: Weak Heads and Careless Bodies

Gigi (1958), a musical romantic comedy, won all nine of its Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Director for Vincente Minelli. The film is just one of several collaborations between lyricist Alan Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe, and serves as their follow-up to My Fair Lady.

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Gigi (Leslie Caron) is a young girl who lives with her grandmother Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold) and is being groomed to be a courtesan by her great-aunt Alicia (Isabel Jeans). Gigi’s mother is never seen; instead, she is only ever heard off-screen practicing her singing. This is likely to be certain there is no mother around to put a stop to this courtesan business.

Gigi and Madame Alvarez are friends with Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jordan), a rich, young bachelor and his uncle Honore Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier). Honore once had a relationship with Madame Alvarez, and the two of them have one of the strongest, most humorous duets, “I Remember It Well.” Honore, Gaston, Madame Alvarez, and great-aunt Alicia decide to work together to make a deal in which Gaston will take Gigi as his courtesan. She will be taken care of for as long as the affair lasts. Gigi, thankfully, has other plans.

Gigi is an older movie now, and while it isn’t completely fair to overlay today’s sensibilities on such a classic, there are parts of the film that are simply problematic. Consider the following little bit of dialogue: “Your first suicide. And at your age. What an achievement.” In the world of Gigi, when women half-heartedly attempt suicide, it is considered a great honor to the men who broke their hearts. Also, one of the main premises of the film is the grooming of a young girl to grow up to be a courtesan. The most famous song, in fact, is “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” which is about how fun it is to watch little girls grow up and how they give little boys something to do.

Problems aside, Gigi is a great American musical classic with excellent acting; a fast, entertaining plot; and many memorable songs.

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Greg Hammond

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