Playwright Michael Cristofer (The Shadow Box) turned filmamker with this sizzling made-for-cable biopic that takes an unflattering look at the fashion industry.
After arriving in New York City from Philadelphia, Gia Carangi (Angelina Jolie) is discovered by a photographer while she is shopping. During her first photo shoot, she models both clothed and nude, and becomes friendly with photographer's assistant Linda (Elizabeth Mitchell). They have a tryst at Gia's apartment, but Linda leaves feeling troubled about the experience. Gia's career skyrockets, as a result of her renegade attitude and look, but she quickly develops a dependency on cocaine. After visting her mother in Philadelphia, Gia attempts to resume her relationship with Linda, who rejects her. Gia's mother begins regularly visiting Gia in her New York apartment, but an argument between the two sends her mother back to Philadelphia. Her career spiralling downward, Gia switches from cocaine to heroin. Suffering from withdrawal pains during a major photo shoot, Gia bolts off in a costly gown to score drugs. She shoots up in an alley.
Realizing her problem, she makes up with Linda, who helps her dry out. Gia returns to modeling--and to using heroin, causing a reckless-driving incident. A subsequent argument severs her relationship with Linda once more. After her falling-out with Linda, she appeals to her mother, who refuses to let her return home. Finally, she successfully beats her addiction, but then becomes ill and is informed she has contracted AIDS. She has a friendly reunion with Linda, during which Gia doesn't reveal her illness. After leaving Linda's apartment she attempts to purchase a suicidal amount of heroin
which results in her being robbed, and beaten. Later, her mother bids her farewell in the hospital; Gia eventually expires of AIDS-related illnesses.
The tragic, true-life story of Gia Carangi contains so many highs and lows (mostly the latter) that it was merely a matter of time before it served as the source material for a movie. This small-screen production does justice to the cautionary tale of her rise and fall in fashion circles, emphasizing a lifestyle of sex, drugs, and indulgence that seemingly had to end in death.
Cristofer, who has worked as an actor and writer in both theater and film, directs the film in a taut, no-nonsense style, complemented by Rodrigo Garcia's stylish camerawork. On the performance level, Angelina Jolie turns in a star-making performance as Gia, playing the part with a conviction that reinforces the dead-end trajectory of the young supermodel's life. And while the well-choreographed sexual interludes between Jolie and Mitchell may lead one to believe that the film is glamorizing Gia's experiences, Cristofer is careful to underscore the character's perenially depressed state, and the fact that her drug use stemmed essentially from a neediness that engulfed everyone with whom she interacted. Indeed, the film poses some difficult questions about the underside of glamour, and makes a very strong argument against the "heroin chic" phenomenon. (Sexual situations, violence, extreme profanity, extensive nudity, substance abuse.)
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