Gia Michael Cristofer

Gia is possibly the greatest made for television movie ever. First off, Cristofer and co-writer/novelist Jay McInerney avoid the clichés of the typical biopic (cardboard characters, paint-by-numbers plotting) and flesh out a three-dimensional heroine from the iconic Gia Caranagi, the very first supermodel. Cristofer convincingly presents Gia's life in a faux-documentary told in flashbacks. Her parents split up when she's just a child and her mother leaves home. As a young woman, Gia travels from blue-collar Philadelphia to well-heeled Manhattan. Despite being an olive-skinned brunette surrounded by blonde, blue-eyed mannequins, Gia soars to the top of the fashion world then spirals into an abyss of sex and drugs. Rebellious, bisexual and drug-addicted, Gia was a complicated personality not easy to identify or sympathise with. She had everything in the world but let it go. Much credit goes to Angelina Jolie, who delivers a note-perfect portrayal of Gia here. You believe you are watching the real Gia (much like you believe Denzel Washington was Malcolm X). Gia's close relationship with her mother (the great Mercedes Ruehl) is heartfelt and real. Her on-again, off-again romance with make-up artist Linda (a strong, sympathetic Elizabeth Mitchell) has all the earmarks of a passionate yet doomed love affair. Gia's downfall is that she severed these two anchors in her life in favour of heroin. To put things in perspective, Gia dominated the modelling scene of late '70s New York (Studio 54, designer jeans, disco and endless drugs). There were many casualties of this era and Gia was one of them. Originally screened on HBO in 1998, Gia has remained available on video in both unrated and standard versions. This DVD release features the unrated version, which adds six more minutes of steamy sex scenes. The extra footage neither enhances nor detracts from the story. However, it is beautiful, dangerous and erotic, just like its heroine. (HBO/Warner)