Gigi is a Cinderella-type story set in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century. In wealthy Parisian society, Gigi (Leslie Caron) is a school girl training to be a courtesan. Gaston (Louis Jourdan) is a young, wealthy playboy who despises the superficial lifestyle of high society and seeks refuge in his friendship with Gigi. She’s just a playful little girl, no harm, right? But Gaston starts to realize that Gigi is coming of age and turning into a lovely young woman. Society expects Gaston to have a pretty young thing on his arm, why not Gigi for a while?
In this film, everything is so colorful and beautifully detailed. The sets, the costumes, props, everything was visually lovely and justly photographed. Gigi deservingly won for Art Design, Costume Design and Cinematography.
Now, if you love Gigi (or other “princess” movies) and it holds a special place in your heart, please stop reading here. I do not want to ruin any beautiful, idealistic fantasies you have created about this film. My following negative views on Gigi were no doubt the product of my very disenchanted and cynical outlook on “princess” films.
The acting sucked. These people and their flat lines didn’t match the beauty around them. When they tried to, it just felt like they were hamming it up. Not halfway through the film, I got an idea. What if Gigi had been an animated film? I’m not joking. I imagined stylized cartoon people, like in 101 Dalmatians. They could still sing and dance, but better, with the expressive quality that could match their beautifully colorful setting. These real actors were not cutting it for me, they literally need to be more animated.
Perhaps it shouldn’t matter so much, but Gigi’s age was really starting to bother me. Her demeanor says fifteen but Caron’s face says mid twenties. Top it off with the song “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” and the Parisian school girl uniform, that I associate mostly with the sweet little cartoon Madeline, and I was really getting creeped out. Maybe in 1958 this was all sweet, innocent and wholesome, but if you’re over the age of eleven and have ever attended a public school, you can easily make a dozen pedophile jokes over Gigi. Sorry I had to go there, but part of critiquing is blunt honesty. The way Gigi is pulled between innocent girlhood, possible romance with an older man and learning how to be a gold digging mistress is very unsettling in my eyes.
If age is of no concern, the entire premise is still horrifying to modern women. Teaching girls to “wait for the high-class jewels” and become snooty women on the arm of a rich man is terrible. Sure, Gigi has her slight rebellions, but she is still trying to go with it and when she does get a taste of the exquisitely superficial lifestyle, she loves it. Little girls tend to emulate the “princess” character, do we need our girls ogling over jewelry pretending to inspect it and make sure it’s a quality gift? If you want to teach little girls they have the choice of being either superficial gold diggers or wives, by all means, pop Gigi in for them.
If I made any aspiring princesses cry, sorry, I warned you not to read any further. How’s the tiara holding up?
“Thank Heaven for little girls. They grow up in the most delightful way. Those little eyes, so helpless and appealing…”