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HBO presents
Gia (1998)

"Life and death, energy and peace. If I stop today, it was still worth it. Even the terrible mistakes that I have made and would have unmade if I could, the pains that have burned me and scarred my soul. It was worth it for having been allowed to walk where I've walked—which was to hell on earth, heaven on earth, back again, into, under, far in between, through it, in it and above."
- Gia Marie Carangi (Angelina Jolie)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: August 09, 2000

Stars: Angelina Jolie
Other Stars: Faye Dunaway, Mercedes Ruehl, Elizabeth Mitchell
Director: Michael Cristofer

Manufacturer: Rainmaker New Media
MPAA Rating: R for graphic depiction of drug abuse, strong sexual content, language and some violence
Run Time: 01h:59m:24s
Release Date: July 18, 2000
UPC: 026359139024
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A AC-B+ D+

DVD Review

Gia is a 1998 made-for-HBO biopic about Gia Marie Carangi, one of the first "supermodels," recounting her rapid rise to fame and subsequent crash under the weight of her own insecurities, drug addiction, and AIDS. The film covers her career from its early days until her death in 1986 at the age of 26.

Director Michael Cristofer treats his subject with a non-judgmental eye, bravely foregoing overt moralizing and allowing Gia's sad, wonderful, tragic life to play out under its own steam. The script, written by Cristofer and novelist Jay McInerney (Bright Lights, Big City), presents its subject in pseudo-documentary form, mixing footage of Gia's life with "reminiscences" by people who knew her, and the film's clever structure bridges reality and metaphor seamlessly. The film's tone is sure-footed and broad-based—it understands the joy and pain of human relationships among the temptations of New York City night life in the 80's. The film takes advantage of its cable freedom with graphic depictions of sexuality and drug use—Gia's heroin injection scenes are extremely difficult to watch.

Cristofer's film is supported by naturalistic performances from a fine cast. Angelina Jolie centers the story with fire and energy, turning in a daring, sexy, little-girl-lost performance that presages her award-winning role in Girl, Interrupted. Selfish and generous, bold and scared, fiercely independent and fundamentally needy, she makes Gia a real person whose tragic life matters because she refuses to be dismissed. Mercedes Ruehl is touching as Gia's troubled mother, who never quite understands her daughter, Elizabeth Mitchell portrays her bewildered girlfriend and lover, a conservative young woman swept off her feet by Gia's wild energy, and Faye Dunaway charms as a fashion agent who becomes an older, wiser friend to Gia. The performances are uniformly excellent, and it's very easy to forget that these are actors, not the real people involved.

It would have been easy to treat Gia Marie Carangi's life story as a simple cautionary tale, but Michael Cristofer's Gia is much more than that—complex and deeply emotional without a hint of mawkishness, it rings true throughout. Its calm observations state difficult truths without seeming to say anything at all, and the film leaves an indelible impression. Gia thrives where few films even dare to venture.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Gia is presented in its original made-for-cable 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The transfer appears to have been mastered from broadcast-quality videotape—it's generally a clean, stable image, but significant NTSC aliasing artifacts and edge enhancement are visible at times. Colors are sometimes impure, though the film's frequent use of black-and-white photography is handled well and black levels are solid. The digital compression exhibits minor "blocking" on some out-of-focus background imagery, and fine details are often obscured. It appears that the movie was shot partly on film and partly on video, but assembled and edited strictly on video—it's not a bad image overall, but not up to film standards, and the single-layer disc's limited bitrate doesn't help. One can't help thinking that a transfer from the original film elements where possible would have looked much better.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: HBO's Gia features three soundtracks—a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track in English, a stereo track in French, and a mono Spanish track. The DD 2.0 track features centered dialogue, with the score and occasional atmospheric effects in the surrounds, and solid bass; the character of the stereo and mono tracks is similar, though naturally more front-heavy and centered. There's a bit of hiss and echo in "live" dialogue, and stereo/panning effects are rarely used, but the film doesn't require anything fancy in the audio department. This is a well-designed TV-movie soundtrack, with nuanced dialogue recording and well-arranged music, competently mastered for DVD.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: HBO presents Gia well, though the extras are limited. Language support is extensive, with French, English and Spanish subtitles AND soundtracks, and the menus are nicely designed with stylish animation, transitions and music. 15 chapter stops are accessible through a picture/text menu—minimal-value supplements include:


Well-written biographies and comprehensive filmographies for cast members Angelina Jolie, Elizabeth Mitchell, Kylie Travis, Mercedes Ruehl, and Faye Dunaway, as well as director/co-writer Michael Cristofer and co-writer Jay McInerney.

Photo Gallery:

A short collection of stills, all featuring Ms. Jolie as Gia in posed "glamour" shots and stills from the film. The shots are attractive enough and presented nicely, but they don't provide any real information.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Gia is a fine film, an uninhibited biography with a riveting performance by Angelina Jolie as the doomed supermodel. HBO's DVD release is just average, with disappointing image quality and supplements, but the film is still well worth viewing. Recommended.


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