Fashion, family, and fame boast the illustrious new film by famed director Ridley Scott. The filmmaker has been on quite the notorious streak as of late, deciding to take on a wide variety of projects just because he can. It’s clear that he hasn’t lost momentum, but his latest does imply that he’s lost a bit of his touch. House of Gucci is a wild mix-mash of a wannabe biopic that turns soap opera. If satire was the goal, it was achieved. At the helm of it all is Lady Gaga portraying Italy’s own black widow murderer Patrizia Reggiani. Her social climb to become the wife of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) is what most people will be flocking to theaters for, and despite some downfalls, it’s still the most entertaining aspect.
The film follows the turbulent years of the Gucci family leading to the murder of Maurizio Gucci. House of Gucci begins in the 1970s, Gucci is owned by the founder’s two sons, the fun-loving Aldo (Al Pacino) and grumpy recluse Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons). Aldo takes on running the business side of things while Rodolfo sits at home trying to relive his past. Then there’s the hard to take serious successor to Aldo, aspiring clothing designer Paolo (Jared Leto). For starters, Leto is almost completely unrecognizable in the role, but it’s the combo of his bad Italian accent and over-the-top performance that really drags the credibility of the movie. It’s almost as if he just walked out of a subpar SNL sketch.
Above it all is the central love story gone wrong with Patrizia and Maurizio. They have a meet-cute at a party, Patrizia fixates on Maurizio’s name and begins to pursue him. Maurizio is reluctant to join the family business, instead, he is studying to become a lawyer. Driver’s performance is subtle and nuanced at first. He’s timid and lets everyone dictate his life. Though Patrizia’s intentions aren’t true, Maurizio falls hard. Like other aspects of the film, Driver’s performance gets stronger over the lengthy runtime as he finds himself in the character. Despite that, this is undeniably Gaga’s film through and through.
There’s a great moment where Rodolfo meets Patrizia over lunch and is horrified by her dimness and commoner upbringing. Irons plays up the better-than-you royalty mentality to the max. Maurizio subsequently goes against his father’s wishes to marry her. Consequently, Gaga’s take on Patrizia is the most compelling. She’s a woman from humble beginnings who wants more, and she’ll do anything for wealth. She goes on to befriend Maurizio’s Uncle Aldo to help get her husband back into the family business. The whole time she is plotting and manipulating her husband’s business decisions. This is where Gaga truly shines in the role. She’s wickedly smart and you can’t help but root for her.
For three generations, Gucci’s family business was considered like royalty, making the rise and fall of one of fashion’s last family-owned empires the perfect story for Hollywood to swoop up. Scott’s film is based on Sara Gay Forden’s novel The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed. It was obviously a huge feat to capture as much possible for the big screen, yet there’s a disconnect where fact and fiction trail off. It’s hard to think that Scott would intentionally make such an absurdist film, it’s hard to point at just one aspect gone wrong.
The intention to tell a cautionary tale about greed is there, it just gets lost in the storytelling and performances. It doesn’t negate every other aspect of House of Gucci, which is still by all means a beautiful film. Unsurprisingly, the fashion is killer, costume designer Janty Yates makes all the cast look effortlessly cool from head to toe. There are so many memorable fashion moments, Gaga in a matching all-over Gucci print two-piece set, Leto in a pink corduroy jacket, and Driver in a white ski jumpsuit to name a few. Moreover, cinematographer Dariusz Wolski takes us through breathtaking views of Italy, Switzerland, and New York. House of Gucci flaunts all of its dazzling features, but none prove to be more than surface level.
Writers Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna kept some of the juicier bits of this true story while also creating new family dynamics. It would’ve been more interesting to get additional one-on-one scenes between Driver and Pacino, their scenework together was exciting. This especially could’ve benefitted the film since it was Driver’s character who ultimately betrays his own Uncle to take over the company. Driver’s growth as Maurizio as the head of Gucci was incredibly amusing to watch. However, the story becomes increasingly convoluted as it goes on. The third act of the film is especially rushed. Patrizia all of a sudden becomes great friends with Pina Auriemma (Salma Hayek), a clairvoyant she saw on a television infomercial. The escalation from their first meeting to plotting murder is also poorly handled. Time is all over the place so there’s no distinct end to Maurizio and Patrizia’s relationship, their divorce is merely skimmed over. For this being such an infamous true crime story, the crime and trial are merely a footnote.
Though House of Gucci is riddled with many faults, it’s nonetheless an entertaining, campy rollercoaster. There’s very little driving force to the plot, so if you’re looking for that type of Awards powerhouse drama, look elsewhere. The performances are where it’s strongest, Gaga is scene-stealer along with Driver and Irons. For it being a stylishly fun fever dream, this may make it onto people’s Holiday watch list.