“Bad table manners, my dear Gigi, have broken up more households than infidelity”-Aunt Alicia
When I first read the description of the film Gigi, the first thing that popped in my mind was Oscar Wilde’s the Importance of Being Ernest. I debated starting this post with this line because throughout the course of the film I realized that this is not the best comparison. The film’s title character, Gigi, does in fact learn to be a fairly sophisticated grown up woman but there are not many other comparisons to be made between Wilde’s play and the 1959 Oscar Best Picture Winner.
Taking place in France, the film immediately reminds us that it is based on a musical, having one of the main characters Honore Lacheille (Maurice Chevalier), sing to the camera while walking around a park in France. The song serves to introduce the audience to the idea that the film’s plot is based on, love and romance. We then are introduced to the man and woman that will serve as the focus of the film. The title character, Gigi (Leslie Caron), is a young woman living with her performer mother (whom we never see) and her grandmother Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold). In France, if you are a man you can chose if you would like to marry or not but if you are a woman, society says that you must marry. To help young, immature Gigi prepare for marriage her great aunt, Aunt Alicia (Isabel Jeans), gives Gigi lessons in every form of etiquette she can think of. Throughout the course of the film we watch as Gigi transforms from an immature child to a stunning and sophisticated young woman.
Gigi’s romantic counterpart begins the film with absolutely no romantic interest in Gigi at all. Gaston Loachaille (Louis Jourdan) is bored with his life. He is tired with what he is supposed to be doing in life, with the woman he is expected to date and with the people with which he is to spend his days. In fact, there only seems to be a few people that he can tolerate. One is Honore Lacheille, an old man that tries to be a bad influence on Gaston, encouraging him not to settle down and not to go after what he wants. The only other people that make Gaston happy are Madame Alvarez and her granddaughter Gigi. After discovering that his mistress, Liane d’Exelmans(Eva Gabor) is cheating on him, Gaston leaves her and takes Gigi and Madame Alvarez on a trip. In the beginning of the film, Gaston treats Gigi like a child, spoiling her with candy and joking around with her like she is his little sister. After leaving his mistress and spending more time with Gigi, Gaston begins to realize that she is not a child and is turning into a beautiful young woman. When he first approaches Gigi for a date, she refuses saying that she does not want to become just another mistress to a wealthy man in France. The two end up working it out and fall deeply, deeply in love.
In my opinion this film tells the story of a love story that we have seen many times before but what makes this love story a little bit more interesting is how both Gaston and Gigi seem to oppose the idea of the relationship at first. They both have problems with how society says they are supposed to act. What is interesting is that both Gigi and Gaston have a similar problem with society. Gigi does not want to become just another mistress and Gaston does not want to pick and date just another mistress. Though they argue, they are both arguing the same point. They can not see or acknowledge that because they are from different parts of society not only because they are different genders but because they live in different social classes.
I will say that Gigi was charming character but I really did not like the two main, male characters in the film. I found Honore to be chauvinistic pig while I thought Gaston was a big baby (pardon that lack of technical terms) that spent most of the film whining. I felt the same way about the film in general. It was a charming film but I’m not sure if I like it enough to call it an Oscar Best Picture Winner. In 1958 Gigi beat The Defiant Ones, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Separate Tables and Auntie Mame for Best Picture. It ended up winning nine Oscars in total including Best Writing for writer Alan Jay Lerner, Best Directing for director Vincente Minnelli and Best Film Editing. Overall I give this film a 6 out of 10. It was fun to watch but certainly was not the best Oscar winner I have seen.