House of Gucci, 2021.
Directed by Ridley Scott.
Starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Al Pacino, Salma Hayek, Camille Cottin, Jack Huston, Reeve Carney, Mădălina Diana Ghenea, Youssef Kerkour, Florence Andrews, Mia McGovern Zaini, Vincent Riotta, Eva Moore, Mehdi Nebbou, and Andrea Piedimonte Bodini.
When Patrizia Reggiani, an outsider from humble beginnings, marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel their legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately…murder.
House of Gucci lacks juicy drama. It’s one thing for a movie to be roughly 160 minutes long (not something I’m ever going to complain about), but a cinematic cardinal sin when the proceedings are this flat and tonally inconsistent. Promises such as betrayal and murder are technically accurate, albeit executed dryly without energy or narrative thrust, right up until its shoulder-shrugging climax. It’s also difficult to decipher who the target demographic is, as someone that actually purchases Gucci products is not necessarily going to be intrigued by this 1970s-1990s family feud, with those on the outside being just as likely to be bored.
Director Ridley Scott (hot off of The Last Duel, one of the year’s best movies) seems unsure if he wants to camp up Becky Johnston’s .and Roberto Bentivegna’s script (which is based on the book by Sara Gay Forden) or treat the material as a profound cautionary tale regarding wealth, legacy, realizing one’s full potential, and ambition. Considering most of the actors here have no Italian background, one would presume that Ridley Scott is more concerned with exaggerated, larger-than-life storytelling prioritizing soap opera entertainment over thematic riches (think Ben Affleck’s sleazily charismatic turn in The Last Duel). Stars Lady Gaga (of Italian descent) and Adam Driver (not the best accent, but it works) ground the narrative somewhat into a character study. In contrast, Jared Leto, caked in makeup, portraying an overly dimwitted dynasty member, feels more like something out of Dumb and Dumber.
Anyway, fabulous and fashionable singer turned Oscar-nominated actress Lady Gaga is Patrizia Reggiani, working for her father’s truck transportation business in Tuscany while having a meet-cute with Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at a fancy party. Admittedly, there is some awkward charm as they flirt and fall for one another, swiftly leading to a marriage that Rodolfo Gucci (a shouty Jeremy Irons, seemingly dialed up to 11 in his brief amount of screen time) disapproves of for his son. Assuming that Patrizia is only looking to improve her financial and social status, Rodolfo cuts Maurizio off from the family business. Such a knee-jerk reaction is also actually fine with Maurizio, who doesn’t have much of an interest in getting involved with the revered fashion line of clothing and handbags, and is happy to lower himself working alongside his newly wedded wife. Among the long hours, the couple also finds time and privacy for getting down to business in a sex scene that might have more energy and passion than anything else in the movie.
Shortly after the wedding is uncle Aldo Gucci’s (Al Pacino) birthday, which he uses an opportunity to meet Patrizia and encourage Maurizio to move to New York and take on a more prominent role in the family business; Patrizia is excited at the notion, also offering words of support for Maurizio as they birth a child into the world and could use an income boost to provide for the family. Simply put, there’s also a mean-streak of manipulation and superiority running underneath Patrizia’s motivational speeches; she wants to be on top and wants her husband to claim that spot. Such an important role can’t go to Jared Leto’s cousin Paolo Gucci, not only ridiculed for his clothing designs but warned never to let them see the light of day for fear of embarrassing the family, shunning him as a black sheep (or a pastel sheep, considering his aesthetic inclinations) unqualified and unfit to work alongside Aldo’s vision. Maurizio is the son Aldo wishes he had, and he is undoubtedly comfortable pushing Paolo aside to make that happen.
As the 1970s transitioned into the 1980s, both Maurizio and Patrizia become consumed with competition and ambition to a degree where they call one another out as changing into different people, forgetting to look inward at the individual monsters they have become. It’s about the only intriguing narrative element to pay attention to in House of Gucci. However, even that is missing a spark, which is surprising to say given how everyone in the family fucks up the lives of one another. It’s all muted, practically pleading to be let loose with the unabashed craziness the story deserves.
Exquisite costume design, a likable cast trying on accents, and popular songs signifying the era can only take a movie so far. Jared Leto is in no way necessarily good in House of Gucci, but it’s at least somewhat amusing and upbeat when he is on screen hamming it up like he is from a different movie entirely. Perhaps he is coming from a better version of House of Gucci that is more willing to embrace campy outrageousness. That’s not to say Lady Gaga and Adam Driver are bad, more so that their quality serious-minded performances don’t gel with the scattered and confused direction.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com