Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Recently, my wife and I have decided to watch a classic movie every week of my choosing. We generally disagree on most movies and have very different tastes, but my hope is that by starting her off with few classic musicals, I could get her interested in a wider variety of movies overall. I decided to start her off with one of my top 10 favorite musicals, Gigi.
The film, set in Paris around the turn of the century, tells the story of a Gigi (played by Leslie Caron), a teenage girl being groomed by her grandmother (played by Hermione Gingold) and her great aunt to be a courtesan. Gigi, a precocious young girl who doesn’t fully understand the world that she is being trained for, is unhappy with her lessons and seems more interested in just having fun while she can. Still, she seems stuck living up to the expectations that her family has set in front of her.
At the same time, Gaston Lachaille (played by Louis Jourdan) has come to be bored with his life in Paris. Even though he is wealthy beyond all reason and constantly being told by his uncle Honore (played by Maurice Chevalier) that he should be enjoying every day, Gaston insists that life has become a “bore.” In fact, the only time that Gaston is happy is when he goes to visit Gigi and her grandmother to play cards and get away from the expectations put upon him. Of course, it is only a matter of time before Gaston starts to see Gigi in a different light…
The film delivers on a variety of levels, starting with the way it looks. The costumes and the cinematography are fantastic, giving the movie a bright and appealing look right from the start. This is no small feat, considering that when filming began the temperatures outside were so unseasonably hot that extras were passing out. It took three days before Minnelli got a usable take of the opening scene, but it is certainly no worse for wear.
It is interesting that, while not nominated for a single acting category, Gigi still went on to win a then-record 9 Academy Awards in 1959, including Best Director and Best Picture. This is surprising, not so much in the fact that Caron and Jourdan aren’t nominated (both are capable in the roles but neither was particularly wowing), but for the fact that Chevalier and Gingold weren’t nominated, which is a travesty. Chevalier is a scene stealer every time he appears in the film, and Gingold is every bit his match when they appear together, especially for the song “I Remember It Well.”
Overall, Gigi is one of the better musicals of the late 50’s, even with the focus being more on music and story than full-blooded singing and dancing. While the story is a little hard to stomach at times, such as when Chevalier is singing “Thank Heaven for Little Girls”, once you look past it and see the love story behind it all, it is truly an exceptional movie. 4 out of 4 stars
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12