Jolie Breathes Life Into ‘Gia’s’ Tragic Tale


Line up the Emmys, the Golden Globes and the CableACE awards. Angelina Jolie’s performance as the meteoric supermodel Gia Carangi in HBO’s “Gia” stands up and demands attention as the work of an impressive young talent.

In a role that takes her through a roller coaster of emotions, obsessions and addictions, Jolie is convincing throughout, the kind of performer whose central energy becomes the focus of every scene in which she appears.

Carangi’s story has been well covered by the sensation-oriented media. A supermodel at the age of 18, she spent the next eight years in an increasingly tragic excursion through the glittering world of high fashion before dying at 26, one of the first American women to die of complications of AIDS.

The script, by Jay McInerney and Michael Cristofer, does not stint in covering the intimate details of Carangi’s life, from her star-crossed love affair with makeup artist Linda (portrayed in subtle, multilayered fashion by Elizabeth Mitchell) and her painful relationship with her mother (played thoughtfully by Mercedes Ruehl) to her dark, compulsive addiction to hard drugs.


The picture has been effectively, if sometimes distractingly, photographed and directed (by Cristofer) with a quasi-fashion look--fast cutting from scene to scene, surrealistic settings, odd camera angles. But when the look of the show seems on the verge of intruding on the story, Jolie makes it all come alive. Like the character she is playing, she has the capacity to move past the cant and the artifice into the emotional heart of the drama.

The subtext of the story, however, is more problematic. The script’s efforts to explain Carangi’s aggressive--and ultimately self-destructive--attitude toward life as the product of a dysfunctional family never quite resonates with any depth of understanding. Nor do the interview-style inserts with Carangi’s parents, friends, etc. come together with effective continuity.

Still, the picture has a compelling quality to it, largely generated by Jolie’s intense performance. At its best, it captures both the poignancy and the inevitable wastefulness of a short, tragic life.

* “Gia” is broadcast at 9 tonight and at 9 p.m. Tuesday on HBO. The network has rated it TV-MA-LSV (may not be suitable for children under the age of 17, with advisories for strong language, sex and violence).