There are two movies among the Best-Picture-winners which I found positively strange and awkward the first time I watched them. Gigi is one of those (the other one hasn’t been mentioned yet). As you can see, my opinion has obviously changed by now even though Gigi is still one of the most unusual movies in this category.
Apart from Chevalier, the cast of Gigi is actually pretty terrific. None of them was nominated for an Oscar which does make sense since none of them truly stands out but the chemistry is just right and all actors know how to balance the silliness of the plot with a more dramatic approach to their characters. Leslie Caron in the title role is much more charming and appealing than in An American in Paris and makes Gigi a true dreamer, a little crazy, a little naïve, scared and insecure but joyful and happy, too. Louis Jordan is very loveable as Gaston who thinks that he must lead a life of pleasure and love affairs but soon finds out that he wants nothing more but a loving relationship. Hermione Gingold is also a joy to watch as the exhausted, overprotective but also misguided grandmother while Isabel Jeans often steals the show as Gigi’s aunt who collected kings like other people stamps.
The most unusual thing about Gigi is easily its plot. The story of a young girl that is brought up to become a mistress certainly sounds rather tasteless but at the same time it’s a clever story of young people rebelling against the plans of the elders. Gaston does not want to lead the life of Lachaille while Gigi lacks all the ‘talents’ to become the mistress of a rich man. Obviously, there are a lot of elements in the story that seem to come right out of My Fair Lady – considering that the people behind these two musicals are the same and My Fair Lady was a huge hit on Broadway while Gigi was filmed, this is not surprising. The fact that, in the end, Gigi and Gaston ruin the plans of everyone around them by falling in love makes the whole story much more clever and three-dimensional than it is usually given credit for. In some ways, Gigi is constantly presenting rather annoying or disturbing themes but then turns around and shows a different or modified view and so opens them up to new interpretation.
Overall, Gigi is certainly not for everyone and the lightness, the strangeness of the plot and the characters make it easy to understand why there is a large amount of dislike in regard to this winner but there is a lot to enjoy in Gigi and even more to find out.