Oh, how times have changed
Truth is, I’m not a huge movie person. I’m the one who says, “I want to see that!” but somehow never actually goes. I also learned a long time ago that, generally speaking, if the critics love a movie, I very likely won’t. Doesn’t leave a lot of room for a blog on my favorite Oscar winning movie, does it?
Anyway, in the spirit of the occasion, I put on one of my red-carpet outfits (sweats and slippers) and found myself a list of movies that had won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Honestly, I wasn’t very hopeful about actually finding one I’d seen and loved, but I did better than that…I found two. One I no longer love the way I used to but, once-upon-a-time, adored with all the girlish fervor of my teenage heart. The other I saw not that long ago and fell in love with—Gigi (Best Picture 1958) and The King’s Speech (Best Picture 2010).
Hmmm…I just realized both are period pieces and, while I didn’t see that before, it’s really no strange thing for a history fanatic like me.
So, Gigi, set in turn of the century (1800s-1900s) Paris is billed as a romantic comedy about the conquest of love over cynicism and is really a coming of age story. The title character is a young woman (played by Leslie Carron), born into a family of courtesans, being groomed to eventually join the “family business”. Along the way she is sent to her great-aunt to learn the tricks of the trade, including how to move in the best circles without embarrassing herself. In the end, the ‘hero’, a free-wheeling playboy and much older than her, who has known Gigi since she was a child, realizes he’s grown to love her, and offers her ‘carte blanche’. She in turn tells him basically to eat shit and die, because she doesn’t want her life to be a constant round of looking for the next protector when the one she has grows tired of her. Yeah, liberation!… except… she’s in love with him and changes her mind, deciding she’d rather be miserable with him than without him. Anyway, in the end, he realizes he’s in love with her too and asks for her hand in marriage.
It’s a beautifully lush movie, in the same vein as My Fair Lady, but from a Humanist point of view, there are so many things wrong with it, I can’t even begin to tell you. All I will say is, keep it away from your impressionable tweens and young teenage daughters, unless you’re giving them an object lesson in how life shouldn’t be lived. Why did I love it back then? Because for a young girl without an ounce of self-confidence or sense, it seemed like a fairy tale romance—the kind of thing I’d want to happen to me when I got older. I grew out of it and now, when I think of Gigi going from playing hopscotch in the street with her friends to being dressed up and paraded into Maxim’s as a tart, it makes my teeth clench. I know I shouldn’t judge a generation on the messages in one movie, but if that was acceptable in 1958, I’m glad I wasn’t around.
If you want a movie night with your daughters, rent The King’s Speech instead. Teach them about perseverance, dedication, the power of honor and standing up to your responsibilities, even when taking on the job is the last thing you want to do.
A much better choice.