Note: This Week in the Box is a year-long series where Sam works through the entire Warner Brothers 50 Film Collection box set. To find reviews of the other films in the series and see the complete list, click here.
Second note: this review contains plot points from throughout the movie, including the final resolution of the main characters. It’s not a good movie, so you shouldn’t watch it, but if you want to watch it without any prior knowledge, skip this review.
This movie is icky. That’s the best word for it. If you prefer, we could also go with gross, or distasteful, or “oh god, now I totally get what the sexual revolution in the 60s and 70s was about, we needed if it this is really how things were.”
Gigi opens with Maurice Chevalier, here playing the role of dapper elderly gentleman Honoré, strolling along a beautiful street that cuts through a park in Paris (the Bois de Boulogne, to be precise), admiring the elite out in their frilly finest, and explaining to us that some women get married, and some… do not. Then he sings a phenomenally creepy song called “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” which is bad enough in the pedophilia creepy-grandpa way, but is actually even worse, since the premise is that little girls grow up to be big girls that you can marry. Or… not marry. If you catch my drift.
Gigi herself is a young woman on the cusp of societal adulthood. She doesn’t get the whole fuss about love (and at one pointsings a really annoying song about it that recalls Tris of Divergent‘s willful refusal to get with the program, romance-wise). A friend of the family, Gaston, is a bit older (though not that much, wink wink) and just making his own way in society, though he stops by and plays cards with Gigi on a regular basis.
To make your way in society, as a man, means to practice ruining women, so you get good at ruining women, and then you have really arrived. Or something. Gaston has a lover– to whom it is not implied he is faithful himself– who he believes is cheating on him. He believes this because she’s too happy (which speaks to the quality of his company, ahem), so he hires a detective who reports the name of the man whose company she is also enjoying. He does this because it would be beneath him to go traipsing after her himself (obviously). When he gets the name, he tells his uncle (Maurice Chevalier), who urges him to destroy her, for the sake of his own honor. Here are some actual lines in the song they sing cheerfully on their way to go catch her in the act:
“You must catch her if you can for the dignity of man”
“But think of the peace of the pleasure you would miss when she topples in a heap and you leave her there to weep on the floor”
It’s all very jaunty, as you can infer from the implicit rhythm of the snippets. Side rant: the music is not great in this movie either. None of the songs are particularly memorable and they all lean very heavily on sing-talking, where you speak the lines in rhythm, but don’t really burst out into song. It’s not fun to listen to and it’s not fun to hear, when you pay attention to the lyrics.
When Gaston and Honoré catch Gaston’s lover kissing another man at a cafe (Honoré notes: “She looks older in the daylight. Much older.” Charming as always!), they expose her and storm off, triumphant. She tries to commit suicide, perhaps not fully meaning it, since it’s implied that this is the standard response to being found out and that she’s done it a number of times before. Honoré congratulates Gaston when he hears the news, saying “Your first suicide. What an achievement. And at your age!” They toast, hoping it will be “the first of many.”
Unfortunately, the movie continues from there, with uninteresting songs with generally misogynistic tones, and eventually Gaston realizes he loves Gigi (which has nothing at all to do with seeing her in a form-fitting evening gown), and they end up happily ever after(ish). The great triumph for women is that he marries her instead of just keeping her as a lover to be disposed of when he gets tired of her.
So, in sum, this is an unpleasant movie that hates women and doesn’t have any good songs. No, that’s not true- the movie doesn’t hate women. It loves women. Women who know their place, which is to be on the arm of a man they’re not married to, who can discard them at any time, and have no honor of their own. Blegh.
Really, Actively Not Recommended