Gigi is a 1958 musical romantic comedy film directed by Vincente Minelli and is based on the 1944 novella of the same name by Colette. At the 31st Academy Awards, the film won all nine of it’s nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Minnelli. It stars Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Hermione Gringold, Evan Gabor, Isabel Jeans and John Abbott.
The film is set during the Belle Epoch at the turn of the 20th century. While in Bois de Boulogne, Honore Lachaille comments that in Paris, marriage is the main option for wealthy young bon vivants like his nephew Gaston, who is bored with his life. Gaston does enjoy spending time with Madame Alvarez and her granddaughter, the happy-go-lucky Gilberte, lovingly known as Gigi. Gigi’s mother (a singer who is heard but not at all seen) leaves her in the care of Madame Alvarez.
Following the traditions of their family, Madame Alvarez sends Gigi to her sister Alicia (Gigi’s great aunt) to be coached to be a courtesan, which is a fancy term for a wealthy man’s mistress. She learns proper etiquette and charm, but Gigi rejects the petty love between a man and his mistress. She prefers having fun with Gaston, who she sees as na older brother.
Like his uncle, Gaston is known as a rich womanizer in Parisian high society. When his current mistress has an affair, he publicly embarrasses her, resulting her fake suicide attempt. He decides to move to the country, but his uncle insists that he stay in Paris and go to more parties.
When Gaston goes to Monte Carlo, great aunt Alicia and Madame Alvarez plot to turn Gigi into Gaston’s mistress. Gigi accepts it as being predetermined. When Gaston returns, he is perturbed when Gigi shows off her new ladylike gown. He citicizes her dress, prefferring her childish fashions; she makes fun of his taste in clothes. Insulted, Gaston leaves, then swiftly realizes his foolishness and returns to apologize. He offers to take Gigi to tea on the Reservoir, but Madame Alvarez interrupts saying that seeing Gigi with him in public could ruin her reputation.
Angry, he leaves again. He walks around and thinks about Gigi, realizing that he has developed romantic feelings for her. Although he is hesitant because of her young age, he realizes that he is in love with her. He wishes to be near her- a behavior unheard of between a man and his mistress.
Although this film takes place is 1900 in Paris where it was common at that time for teenage girls to be groomed to be mistresses and brides to older, somtimes MUCH older men, it is still very creepy. If this sort of thing happened today, it would not only be considered immoral, but it would be illegal in many countries. The song that Hornore Lachaille sings in the begining of the film, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” sounds like the pedophile’s anthom, especially the way he walks around smiling, chuckling and tipping his hat at girls. Also in the scene, he talks about charming girls and how they become even more charming when they become ladies. The song also is creepy for the line “Without them, what would little boys do?”
This movie glosses over the fact that she is being coached into being courtesan, much like Break at Tiffany’s glosses over the fact that Holly Golightly is a escort. Despite this, it is still both charming and creepy. Gigi is a lovely girl of just sixteen and far too young to be a doxy. She is a typical teenage girl and not a super girly one, until her grandmother and great aunt change that and make her ready for the arms of a man. Yes, she is beautiful and delightful, but that shouldn’t have meant she was ready for courting or marrying a much older man, a boy in her age range is much more appropriate. But you have to realize that times were different then in France and females had little rights.
This film resembles My Fair Lady, so the story is not very original. Despite that, the acting superb from all the main cast. The costumes are spectacular. The songs, all good, except for the theme song “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” although you can tell a few stars are lip syncing.
Overall, a well done film. With the unoriginal story and uncomfortableness, this movie did not deserve Best Picture or even Best Director. The entire film is about turning a sixteen year old girl into a rich man’s mistress and for what reason other than reputation for both? I can’t believe such a movie with this subject matter was so appraised and won so many awards. It is one of the creepiest Oscar Best Picture and Golden Globe Best Musical or Comedy winners ever. The loveliness doesn’t take away the awkwardness, but does make it somewhat enjoyble to watch. 13+ 2.5/5