The following is an edited transcript of the video above.
House of Gucci is the second film from director Ridley Scott to come out in 2021. His last feature was The Last Duel, which I reviewed just weeks ago; now, that film’s production had been interrupted by the pandemic, so they had to delay shooting, and during that time, Scott approached Adam Driver, one of the film’s leads, about being in his next movie, which is, you guessed it, House of Gucci. So this is why both films are coming out so close to one another, both of them being Ridley Scott films with Adam Driver as a co-lead.
House of Gucci also stars the always mesmerizing and theatrical Lady Gaga in her next major awards play since A Star is Born, and she plays a woman named Patrizia Reggiani, based on a real person living in late 70s Milan, who tries to win the affections of Maurizio Gucci, played by Driver. This happens not long after finding out his last name, to be clear, because yes, he is that Gucci, heir to the world-famous luxury fashion house.
Naturally, not everyone in the Gucci family approves of Maurizio getting together with someone so drastically beneath his social class. His father (played stiff, yet briefly sweet by Jeremy Irons) warns him that a woman like Patrizia, whose family owns little more than a fleet of trucks, only wants him for his name and future fortune.
But Maurizio doesn’t listen and wants to marry her anyway, and just when it seems the entire family will cut him off forever over this decision, Patrizia manages to charm his more agreeable uncle, played by Al Pacino, and the two officially join ranks with that side of the family, which also includes an eccentric oaf named Paolo (played by Jared Leto, though you can hardly recognize him). It’s essentially Arrested Development, but with an Italian fashion dynasty and it’s not very funny or well-written.
So first thing’s first, this movie is entirely too long and it’s filled with far too many scenes lacking a cinematic moment, one that justifies the inclusion of the scene beyond the lowest bar of, “well, this will advance the plot somewhat.” Once in a while, we do get a terrific showcase for the one or two of the main actors, as the movie find its most assured footing when the various family members simply tear into each other, both in subtle and expectedly bombastic ways.
But more often than not, these scenes, some of them even barely asides in terms of importance, are as garish as the dated clothing and jewelry. It’s a movie that looks both cheap and expensive at the same time, which is coincidentally my opinion of Gucci fashion items as someone well outside the realm of people who take an interest. So I am self-aware enough to understand that there is a flair of appeal to this story I was never going to find inherently compelling. But that limitation, which everyone shares with plenty of films that reach outside their sphere of interest, hasn’t stopped other films from getting me and others to care about something I or they never thought I or they would care about.
Martin Scorsese, the master of the angle, is the obvious point of comparison, here, since he is of course an Italian American director who has time and again wrung universal fascination out of otherwise dull subject matter, sometimes within films lasting nearly three hours or more. So after House of Gucci ended, I couldn’t stop craving what Scorsese might’ve done better with this material.
The performances are far from the problem. I actually found Driver to be unusually relaxed in this role, and it was a bit of relief to see him slip so naturally back into the cool, contemplative persona he’s pulled off before and quite expertly in roles like Paterson, though in this one he gets to act out the sort of gradual growth (or decline?) in villainy that reminds of The Godfather. Speaking of, Pacino carries on his killer comeback since 2019’s The Irishman, getting more chances than I expected to decisively alter the course of the entire film through his sheer presence, alone, as there’s a clear mark in the first act when his mere introduction injects loads of much-needed energy into its slow start.
Lady Gaga similarly works at a high level in this, despite how unfortunately drab the writing suits her otherwise willing effort. I can see some out there blaming her for the grating caricature she’s depicting on-screen, but I do think that was supposed to the point and she’s delivering the intended direction well, considering. Of all the actors, even counting Leto behind all his makeup, Gaga is the one who surprisingly disappears the most into her part and makes it her own, to the point where I found myself bought into the idea that I’m seeing the real-life Patrizia flirting and sparring with Maurizio Gucci, who happens to look a lot like Adam Driver.
If you’re up for some full-effort performances and simply want to see this incredible, stranger-than-fiction tale about the greed of Gucci, one that’s told competently enough within the usual three-act structure, albeit long and crammed with filler, then House of Gucci is an easy enough recommendation. But just know that you have to sit through a lot of pain and suffering in this runtime, which might cost you more than you’re willing to pay for the brand.
- Jared Leto. He’s…fine?
- Didn’t love overall the cinematography by Dariusz Wolski (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Last Duel). And the production design, while doing a lot to serve the story in several key ways, was weirdly one-note with one immaculate, fantabulous set after another.
- Sadly, the music by Harry Gregson-Williams doesn’t do much to stand out, as I can’t remember a single chord, let alone an inkling of a tune from the entire picture. It’s a soundtrack-heavy movie, which sure, the Shrek movies were too but you still remember his composition from that film, no?
House of Gucci opens in theaters starting November 24.
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