House of Gucci

Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna (story by Becky Johnston; based on the book by Sara Gay Forden)
Stars: Lady Gaga (Patrizia Reggiani), Adam Driver (Maurizio Gucci), Al Pacino (Aldo Gucci), Jeremy Irons (Rodolfo Gucci), Jared Leto (Paolo Gucci), Jack Huston (Domenico De Sole), Salma Hayek (Pina Auriemma), Alexia Murray (Silvana Reggiani), Vincent Riotta (Fernando Reggiani), Gaetano Bruno (Franco), Camille Cottin (Paola Franchi)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 2021
Country: Canada / U.S.
House of Gucci
House of Gucci

Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci is engrossing without ever being very compelling. You watch it and you don’t want to stop watching it, but it doesn’t get to your gut the way Scott clearly wants it to. Instead of being an epic of interfamilial power struggles and capitalist greed, it unfolds with the rhythms and lures of a soap opera—which, I guess, it pretty much is—albeit one that is enhanced by both its basis in real-life tragedy and its leverage of Hollywood star wattage.

Based on Sara Gay Forden’s 2000 book The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed (the subtitle pretty much lays bare exactly what we are looking for), Scott’s film charts the familial dynamics that shaped Gucci, the Milan-based fashion house, in the 1970s and ’80s, when it arguably hit its peak of international recognition. The film begins in the early ’70s, nearly a half-century after Gucci was founded, with the fashion dynasty’s reluctant heir apparent, the genially awkward and bespectacled Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), meeting the dynamic and ambitious Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) at a party. Maurizio, who is studying law, wants little to do with the family business, which is co-run by his father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), and his uncle, Aldo (Al Pacino), whose own son, Paolo (Jared Leto), is a pretentious and dim-witted would-be artiste who lacks the cognitive ability and self-control to run an international business.

When Maurizio and Patrizia get married, Rodolfo all but disowns him because he (perhaps rightly) recognizes her ambitions and financial desires, which he associates with her working-class roots and lack of social status. And, while Maurizio and Patrizia initially go about their own lives apart from Gucci, Rodolfo’s ailing health and eventual death draws them back in, with Maurizio taking over his father’s position and thus entering into a world of corporate and familial struggles ignited by the tensions between the aging Aldo’s fundamental complacency (Gucci is making millions, so he sees no need to rock the boat) and Paolo’s wide-eyed and misguided artistic aspirations (Leto, buried under pounds of latex and make-up and a rolling Italian accent, is either the film’s best asset or its worst, as he makes Paolo into a borderline caricature who is nonetheless utterly captivating).

Maurizio maintains a benign air that contradicts his status as a titan of the international fashion world, but he is not immune to the corruption always comes with the lure of power, much of which is fueled furiously by Patrizia. Lady Gaga, coming off her Oscar-nominated debut in A Star is Born (2018), proves that hit was not a one-off, as she thoroughly embodies her character’s intense desires and sometimes paradoxical mix of naivety and Lady Macbeth-like machinations. Wild-eyed and at times downright vicious, she embodies financial desire at its most naked. Driver, who is so good at being both gentle (see Jim Jarmusch’s lovely Paterson) and nefarious (see the last three Star Wars films), credibly charts his character’s Michael Corleone-like ascension from hesitant heir to fashion godfather. Even though Gaga will likely get most of the accolades since her character is the most flamboyant, Driver provides the film its dramatic backbone and narrative resonance. If there is a tragedy here, it is in Maurizio’s inability to steer clear of his family’s dynasty, which was destined to destroy him.

Unfolding over nearly three hours, House of Gucci feels both packed to the rafters and slightly hollow. There is a predictable quality to so much of the narrative because we have seen this story so many times before, and despite Scott’s visual panache and the cast’s combined prowess, House of Gucci never quite rises to its ambitions, instead going through the motions and providing a few genuinely memorable moments en route to a climax that will be shocking only to those who know nothing about Gucci’s history.

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Overall Rating: (2.5)

James Kendrick

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