If “The Godfather” and “Succession” had a flamboyant offspring, it would look something like Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci,” the director’s sweeping yet wildly imbalanced telling of the titular and renowned fashion company’s scandalous history, full of backstabbing, betrayal, avarice, and even murder.
It’s a spicy enough foundation that has enough flamboyance, one in which Lady Gaga turns into an ambitiously tacky character, features an unrecognizable Jared Leto dialing yet another transformative shtick up to eleven, and includes several exaggerated English-spoken-with-an-Italian-accent stretches and twists of random words through cutely fluctuating emphases on every other syllable based on the book by Sara Gay Forden.
We can see the humor in this campy package that sounds entirely entertaining on a fashion-soaked, star-studded, feast-for-the-eyes canvas. It’s perhaps worth noting that a character refers to Ralph Lauren as “a movie set,” Versace as “a rock concert,” and Gucci as “the Vatican of fashion.” Now, imagine all these distinct appearances on a mishmash runway that’s meant to represent one designer’s voice. “House of Gucci,” a film that would have benefited from a clear silhouette and trimming of its lengthy runtime, is among the many perplexing collections.
Nonetheless, despite its soapiness and the presence of a number of stars (including Leto) who embrace the film’s flamboyant tone, Scott’s soapy epic isn’t necessarily a snooze-fest; thanks to some brave performances (such as one insanely go-for-broke sequence), it meets them at that heightened level.
In an uneven performance, Lady Gaga plays Patrizia Reggiani—an outspoken young woman with little money who falls in love with and marries Maurizio Gucci (a severely subdued Adam Driver), the dreamboat scion of the fashion house. When Patrizia is rejected by doddering Maurizio’s conservative and haughty father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), she finds a sympathetic companion in Uncle Aldo (Al Pacino). Rodolfo is a calculating sibling, with a business standpoint that differs from his brother’s when it comes to resuscitating Gucci’s struggling image in the ’70s and gaining traction above the brand’s whispered-about financial difficulties.
Paolo, the son of Aldo and played by Jared Leto, is another character who adds to the drama. Paolo’s outrageous (and extremely entertaining) gaudiness single-handedly earns the aforementioned “rock concert” comparison. Paolo is a useless business wannabe who aspires to be a fashion designer with little taste and even less skill.
The Clan’s hatred for each other festers throughout the film, especially after Patrizia sneakily talks Maurizio out of his legal education ambitions, muscle-walks her way into the family business, and turns her husband against almost every member of the family. Salma Hayek’s innocent psychic Pina guides the increasingly despairing queen bee Patrizia with prophecies about the future, adding to some of the film’s most hysterical moments.
You may only hope that the cast will agree on what sort of a film they’re in. You could argue that Adam Driver is excellent in the part of Maurizio, but his measured behavior seems out-of-place with Leto and Hayek’s version of “House of Gucci,” which I believe they think they’re in—rather than he operates in an entirely different movie, where Lady Gaga occasionally joins when she’s not on a different wavelength.
The same inconsistency appears elsewhere in the script, too, throughout Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna’s screenplay, which alternates between a serious drama and a weirdly heightened stern with a warped sense of humor that elicits several laughs.
It’s only when “House of Gucci” has the audacity to accept the latter part of its split personality that it truly works, even if it does soar. But this confidence doesn’t always come to fruition. In the film’s last act, as Maurizio is willingly lured into the side of his abilities like Michael Corleone in a slicker outfit and revitalizes Gucci as the multi-billion-dollar top designer we know today, it drops steam rapidly. (Reeve Carney does an adequate job playing up-and-coming Tom Ford in these parts.)
Visual design is, as one might guess, how “House of Gucci” makes the most impact. The film follows the Guccis’ journey through Rome, Milan, New York, and even the Swiss Alps where Maurizio and Patrizia holiday with an amazing Camille Cottin making an appearance as Maurizio’s potential romantic interest. With elegance and meticulous attention to detail, Arthur Max’s exquisite production design highlights the luxury and opulence of the Gucci lifestyle. (The majority of the film was apparently shot in and around Rome for the interiors.) Janty Yates, predictably emerges as the project’s MVP. In particular, she sculpts Lady Gaga’s Gina Lollobrigida-Esque looks and character journey – from her early flouncy unworldliness to her sharply cut outfits and later on, vulgar getups – and informs the actor’s performance that veers into something animalistic. More triumphantly, the designer’s flawless suit (which was mostly bespoke by a NY-based tailor with additional pieces by Ermenegildo Zegna) brings out the neatly combed Driver manly refinement in a way no film has ever done.
These visuals, however, are only part of the equation; they’re simply special effects that keep “House of Gucci” on its feet when the movie falls flat elsewhere. You come to it for a unique boutique experience, but what you walk out of seems more like an overstuffed department store. You can also try this movie using Cinemahdv2.
Movie Name: House of Gucci
Cast Leads: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Jared Leto
Director: Ridley Scott
Producer: Francesca Cingolani and Teresa Kelly
Written by: Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Director Of Photography: Dariusz Wolski
Movie Rating: 3.3/5