The characters in the film “House of Gucci” experience the same feelings that Brutus did when he said his famous lines in Julius Caesar, “Th’ abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.” Palace politics begins as soon as there is a lack of compassion in the scheme of things, when an individual believes that he is at a disadvantage, when greed overpowers an individual, and sometimes also when you want to take what you feel you deserve. The Guccis had built a legacy for themselves. But sometimes, it is that one seed of discontent that grows enough to spoil all the other existing plants that were earlier cohabiting without any conflict.
When it is about power and about the individuals who enter into the battleground to harness it, there is one universal rule that decides who prevails and who doesn’t, i.e., ruthless pragmatism. But it doesn’t end there. When you tread on a path that is devoid of any ideals and just aims at the results, you have to think about the consequences too. So let’s try to understand the sensibilities of the residents of the “House of Gucci” and a few others who influenced their fate.
“You can call me Signora Gucci,” said Patrizia, when the judge called her Signora Reggiani, during the infamous trial, where she was accused of killing her husband. She was an outsider to the Gucci family, whom Maurizio had married against the wishes of his father, Rodolfo Gucci. Aldo Gucci, his uncle, convinced everybody to accept Patrizia into the family. But little did he know that she would become the reason behind his own downfall. There were three traits that defined Patrizia’s character: greed, insecurity, and an incessant need to be accepted by society as a “Gucci.”
No matter how much you want to believe Patrizia’s bona fide intentions, she provides ample evidence that her motivations were influenced by greed rather than love. She makes it a point that she bumps into Maurizio, and very cleverly and subtly pushes him to marry her. Maurizio marries her but gives up his family home as his father didn’t accept their marriage. Patrizia, the schemer, is desperate to change that, as the whole point of marrying Maurizio would go in vain if she didn’t become a beneficiary of the legacy. She knew she might never become the king, but she could be the kingmaker. That would eventually put her in a position where she could influence the decision-making. She didn’t want to live with the feeling that she was being given something only because Maurizio married her, but wanted to have everything because it was rightfully hers, as she was one of them.
Getting the majority stake holding was the first step in exercising that control. She had identified Paolo Gucci, Aldo’s son and cousin of Maurizio, as a weak link. She knew that Paolo could be swayed and that the shares he had in his name could very well make them the majority stakeholders. She devises a plan to create a divide between Paolo and Aldo, but it backfires as Paolo does not agree to sell his shares at that time.
The second trait, i.e., insecurity, becomes obvious when she visits St. Moritz, where Maurizio had escaped after a raid was conducted in his house. Patrizia sees him hanging out with his friends who knew him from way before she did. She felt for the first time that she was losing control over him. Her only power was that she was able to influence Maurizio so much that he blindly did what she said. If she lost that, she had nothing.
The desire for acceptance was the most intriguing one by far. Human beings experience all types of emotions, and sometimes it becomes difficult to find the rationale behind them. To me, it felt like she did not want to be cut off from her original identity. Maybe she was too fascinated by a name that bore such a legacy. Perhaps she wanted to validate her actions by thinking that she wasn’t after anybody’s wealth or legacy, but she was just looking out for herself by taking what was rightfully hers, as she too was a Gucci.
Every time Patrizia Reggiani felt out of control, insecure, or ousted from the scheme of things, she took a step that severed a blow to some or the other member of the family and eventually led to their collapse.
Maurizio never wanted to be a part of the business. He was studying to be an advocate and stayed away from the family business. From not understanding the need to associate oneself with a legacy that he didn’t find worthy, to scheming with Patrizia and pushing his own family members out of business, Maurizio unknowingly became somebody he had always despised. Maurizio’s father had warned him about Patrizia, asking him not to marry her, but he didn’t listen to him. He gave a free hand to Patricia, not realizing that he was creating a ticking time bomb that, sooner or later, would blow away everything that his family had created.
Maurizio Gucci cut his ties with Patrizia, but he didn’t foresee the consequences that would follow. It showed that he was not a very good judge of people. Inheriting an empire is of no use if you cannot protect it. A bequest of such enormity meant that there would be scavengers waiting for that one moment when the guard is down and the target is clear.
Showing trust, as a matter of fact, is important, but for a person in such a position, he was a tad bit too careless and short-sighted. From getting ousted from his position in the company to the events leading to his death, each and every event was proof that he was capable of being played, and as Domenico De Sole mentioned, the managerial skill was not something that came to him naturally.
After watching “House of Gucci,” I wondered if Paolo succumbed to the subjectivity of those few who held the reins of authority, even if their subjectivity had some merit. Paolo was a person who considered himself to be an artist of the highest order but was always demoralized by the members of his own family and suffered from a lack of validation and approval. His opinions were not even considered, and moreover, they were often scraped off without an iota of sympathy for his feelings.
Aldo and Rudolfo deemed it fit to make his incompetence public by shaming him in front of others, with Aldo often referring to him as his idiot, good for nothing son. But still, Paolo was never a rebel. Even when Patrizia and Maurizio came up with a plan to expose Aldo’s tax evasions, Paolo only became a co-conspirator because he thought that it would only intimidate his father without any serious consequences. He was also defrauded like his father, by Patrizia and Maurizio.
Paolo was not as cunning and shrewd as the others. Even when he was insulted, he never even once thought of going against the family. Yes, his incompetence would irk you and irritate you to the extent that you might insult and shoo him off, but his existence never threatened anyone. He could be called naive, incompetent, emotionally dependent, and maybe his creative imaginativeness didn’t match the expected standards, but he didn’t do anything to deserve the end that he did.
Aldo Gucci & Rodolfo Gucci
The brothers were sons of Guccio Gucci, the founder of Gucci. Rodolfo didn’t consider Gucci products like any other accessory. He saw it as a museum artifact, the essence of which he believed needed to be preserved. That is why when Aldo tells him to open a store in a mall in Japan, he sees it as an insult to the legacy created by his father. Aldo still held middle ground when it came to the future of the brand. He knew that he would have to flow with the rapidly changing market and adapt and improvise accordingly. But Rudolfo was an extremist. There was no doubt in his mind that Gucci would never become part of the crowd. He took solace in his past. It could be said that it was a blessing in disguise that he didn’t live long enough to see the tug of war of power the family eventually entered into. Aldo was disheartened when he saw that Maurizio had schemed to buy him out of the company. He gave up his shares in sheer despair and disbelief at being toppled by his own nephew, for whom he had once vouched, against the wishes of his brother.