Gaga saves Gucci from wandering script, accents

<p>FABIO LOVINO / METRO GOLDWYN MAYER PICTURES</p><p>Individual performances in House of Gucci are interesting: Adam Driver (from left) is predictably good, Jared Leto is over the top and Lady Gaga, fortunately, is fascinating.</p>





<p>FABIO LOVINO / METRO GOLDWYN MAYER PICTURES</p><p>Individual performances in House of Gucci are interesting: Adam Driver (from left) is predictably good, Jared Leto is over the top and Lady Gaga, fortunately, is fascinating.</p>

FABIO LOVINO / METRO GOLDWYN MAYER PICTURES

Individual performances in House of Gucci are interesting: Adam Driver (from left) is predictably good, Jared Leto is over the top and Lady Gaga, fortunately, is fascinating.

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. There’s also a lot to be said for a movie that involves Adam Driver in Italian knitwear.

Unfortunately, Ridley Scott’s direction is messy, Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna’s 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 she’s a young woman working for her stepfather’s 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 father’s rejection, Maurizio distances himself from the family business. It’s Patrizia who wants back in, and she shrewdly engineers this through Maurizio’s 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 generation’s 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 don’t 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.



There’s 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 Driver’s relatively restrained and realistic attempt to Leto’s farcically over-the-top “whatsa matta you” stylings. The issue is further complicated by the fact that House of Gucci’s 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 it’s a distraction.

Individual performances are interesting on their own but taken together, they clash, like Paola’s 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 he’s given, and Lady Gaga just commands. (The scripting can’t 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.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca


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Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

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.

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