Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci has been much anticipated. The cast is stellar. It’s based on a luscious, true story (so juicy) featuring vicious family infighting and culminating in a murder. I was thinking Succession, but with luxury leather goods and the hiring of a hit man. It can’t miss, I was thinking. Except it can. Not entirely. It has its moments. But the middle act drags (it’s two hours and 40 minutes long) and also the decision to have the English-speaking cast a-speak-a in Italian accents may not have been the wisest one. There were many times I thought Gino D’Acampo was in the room-a.
This stars Lady Gaga and she really stars. Or, to put it another way, she is fascinating to watch, the best thing in this by a country mile, and manages to disappear inside her character in a way no one else in the cast does. She plays Patrizia Reggiani, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks (her father ran a trucking business) who, in 1970, meets Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), heir to the Italian fashion empire, at a party and is determined to have him. But also they do fall in love. Maurizio’s father (Jeremy Irons, who shouldn’t be made-a to speak in an Italian accent but is, and does so when he remembers) is dead set against their marriage and breaks off all contact. But Uncle Aldo (Al Pacino, totally chewing the scenery) is more friendly and wants Maurizio to become more involved in the business given that his own son Paolo (Jared Leto) is a useless oaf. Paulo is written as a comic character, and Leto plays it for comedy, which made these scenes not only feel as if they were from a different film entirely but also tone deaf somehow. (I later looked up Paolo and my God, what a tragedy. Laughing at him seemed off and it is.)
Patrizia is certainly more ambitious for Maurizio than Maurizio is for himself and soon he’s embroiled in the family business which, at this point, makes its own knock-offs. (I found such details interesting, particularly as there is very little insight into what they are selling otherwise.) But the central driving force of the film is the marriage, and when the narrative sticks to that, this does command your full attention.
However, midway through Patrizia and Maurizio are forced to take a back seat while the film focuses on matters of tax evasion and all kinds of boardroom shenanigans, and loses any pace. This is when I found myself longing for Ryan Murphy (creator of American Crime Story and that series about Versace), who, unlike Scott, knows how to keep kitsch-camp energy running at a high and how to avoid falling into plodding biopic territory. (And-then-this-happened, and-then-this-happened…) By the time we return to Patrizia the marriage has gone sour, and Maurizio wants out, but you don’t really see the process of the souring or the build-up of the jealousy, bitterness and resentment that would lead her to hire a hitman. (That’s not a spoiler, right? You know she’s the ‘Black Widow’, right?)
There are a few scenes that are absolute stand-outs. There is one in a chalet in St Moritz and also there’s Patrizia’s last-ditch attempt to win her husband back with a photo album. That’s the only time I ever felt anything. Otherwise, the film does not ask you to care about anyone and there is scant character development. Driver, as Maurizio, seems largely absent but maybe that is intentional. Meanwhile, the Gucci residences are spectacular, as are the clothes, which somehow look both cheap and expensive. Is that Gucci? I don’t know. I am solely House of Uniqlo. In short, this isn’t a bad film, and it’s probably worth seeing for Lady Gaga alone, but also it’s not a great one. Or ‘great-a-one-a’, I should say.