This lurid look at the legendary Italian fashion house probably never had a chance to be truly good, but it might have succeeded as glorious tabloid trash.
There are moments of high-camp brilliance, mostly orchestrated around pop star and A Star Is Born actor Lady Gaga, whose formidable, fascinating and flamboyant presence is given sharp-edged emphasis here by mid-1980s power suits and about two metric tonnes of chunky jewelry. Theres also a lot to be said for a movie that involves Adam Driver in Italian knitwear.
Unfortunately, Ridley Scotts direction is messy, Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegnas script is confused, and the story, which veers between operatic melodrama and low-brow comedy, loses its sense of ridiculous fun as it slogs through a scattered and overlong timeline.
House of Gucci explores the collision of love, family, ambition and money. We meet Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) when shes a young woman working for her stepfathers trucking business. After a chance encounter with Maurizio Gucci (Driver), the shy and sheltered scion of the Gucci dynasty, Patrizia makes a determined play. Maurizio is smitten, but his father, Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons), disapproves.
Hurt by his fathers rejection, Maurizio distances himself from the family business. Its Patrizia who wants back in, and she shrewdly engineers this through Maurizios uncle, Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino). Aldo has given up on his own son Paolo (an unrecognizable Jared Leto), whom he likes to call an idiot… but my idiot.
House of Gucci tracks how family dynasties often decline, from the visionary founder to the feuding siblings of the second generation to the third generations spending sprees and poor management. The Gucci story also illustrates another common trajectory, as an artisanal luxury line devolves into a mass-produced global brand diluted by cut-rate replicas.
There is some Succession-like scheming and power-playing, but the script mostly reduces complex family dynamics to unsubtle shorthand. And we dont get much specific sense of the fashion biz until near the end of the film, with a glamorous walk-on by Tom Ford (Reeve Carney).
The relationship between Maurizio and Patrizia proceeds from passionate young courtship – with an (intentionally?) hilarious sex scene to brooding breakdown, but the emotional shifts feel choppy and abrupt. Maurizio changes while Patrizia ends up frozen – Sunset Boulevard-style – in her 1980s outfits, with fatal consequences.
Theres also the accent issue. Scott makes the questionable decision to employ American and British actors speaking English with an array of idiosyncratic, sometimes outright silly Italian accents, from Drivers relatively restrained and realistic attempt to Letos farcically over-the-top whatsa matta you stylings. The issue is further complicated by the fact that House of Guccis background characters the police officers, workmen, reporters, servants are speaking actual Italian. Perhaps in a better film, this would pass as a necessary cinematic convention, but here its a distraction.
Individual performances are interesting on their own but taken together, they clash, like Paolas hideous clothing designs. (Never pastels and brown, sniffs Uncle Rodolfo.) There is pleasure in seeing Irons as a bored, desiccated aristocrat, and Pacino as, well, Pacino. Driver does predictably well with the material hes given, and Lady Gaga just commands. (The scripting cant match her, but who cares?) Leto is clowning, though, in a hambone turn that would make Johnny Depp blush.
Never quite succeeding as extravagant fun nor serious drama, House of Gucci is a pastels-and-brown kind of film.
Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.