In one of the opening scenes of ‘House of Gucci,’ Lady Gaga’s Patrizia Reggiani, the woman who married the heir of the Italian fashion empire that is Gucci, stylishly alights from a car. All eyes are glued to her as she struts up to her destination. That is a microcosm of pretty much most of the experience of watching this big-ticket retelling of true events that led to the assassination of Maurizio Gucci.
Directed by Ridley Scott, best known for ‘Alien,’ ‘Gladiator’ and more, the film boasts of an all-star cast of Oscar-nominated/winning stars, including Adam Driver’s Maurizio, his father, and the head of the family business – Jeremy Irons’ Rodolfo, Al Pacino’s Uncle Aldo and his son, Paolo, basically Jared Leto in a ridiculous disguise. Between Gaga’s caricaturish portrayal of Patrizia and Leto’s eccentric act, the movie sets out to create a severe dramatization of a sensational story. There’s high fashion, family feud, and an outrageous crime; what’s not to love? But perhaps some of it gets lost in the thick inconsistent accents and humor that almost always distract from the stakes of the plot, which is based on author Sara G Forden’s aptly titled book ‘House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed.‘
Father, Son, and House of Gucci
Before we jump into the review, here’s a short recap of the scandalous true events – In March 1995, Maurizio Gucci, the former head of the fashion house, was shot dead by a hitman on the steps of his office building. His ex-wife Patrizia was found guilty and was convicted for calling the hit out of rage and jealousy in 1998. Through the ’80s, the Gucci shareholders had a tonne of familial infighting over the brand’s legacy. It’s the stuff of soap operas. That’s perhaps why Ridley Scott’s movie feels like one on so many levels, the campy look and feel certainly helps.
House of Gucci takes several liberties with facts and Gucci history. It begins with a teaser of the inevitable tragic murder and goes back in time to narrate the happenings that led to said murder. The reality of the case isn’t as twisty as the film will have you believe, but it certainly has the makings of a fascinating crime drama.
Right from the get-go, House of Gucci is unmissable for anyone who enjoys watching ridiculously rich people doing bad things (think Succession). We watch the plot come to life with a rundown of the lead characters’ whirlwind romance, starting with Patrizia and Maurizio’s meet-cute that ended up the former gawking over the latter’s last name. Gaga is charming and unwittingly funny in her attempts at bagging a date with the to-be owner of Gucci.
Meanwhile, Driver being the tall, beautiful man he is, holds his own as the awkward and reluctant heir to the family business. What comes next is a montage of the happy pair making their way through smoky streets, making love, and eventually getting married. The Guccis aren’t exactly thrilled with their high fashion clan being associated with a family that’s into “ground transportation,” as Patrizia tries to explain to Rodolfo at her introductory lunch, only to be faced with instant judgment. And that’s just the first of many instances where people try to remind the woman who will ultimately be dubbed “Lady Gucci” of her proverbial place as an outsider. If you came for the family conflict and a sensational murder, you must stay for what comes in the second act of the movie.
Come for the fashion drama, stay for the Lady Gaga show.
As promised, House of Gucci has some great performance moments. The most curious role is Jared Leto’s. He is unrecognizable as Paolo, but if you look close enough, you’ll see an act that’s just as crazy as his Joker in the DCEU. In playing a Gucci and wannabe designer who is tricked into selling his shares, he creates a picture so pitiful, and it’s hard to look away.
Leto’s is also the only part where the movie truly delves into fashion, into the aesthetics, to be precise. Of course, he’s got Al Pacino in tow, which certainly enhances the performance. That being said, in spite of the big names, this is Lady Gaga’s movie. The actress is an absolute revelation with her perfect Italian accent, walk and talk modeled after what one can only assume is a version of Patrizia sold by the press and the range she shows in the movie’s 2 hours 38 minutes run time.
When House of Gucci isn’t busy playing out a soap opera, it is offering a character study of a woman slowly consumed by greed. We first meet Patrizia she is a 20-something who married a man who temporarily lost his fortune for love. Over time, she begins to care for the Gucci name, a name she is constantly told isn’t hers – by family and acquaintances. The more she’s told it isn’t hers, the more she puts up a fight to claim it. You almost sympathize with the character. This is, after all, a woman who gives in to her wavering moral compass for ambition. Playing Lady Macbeth to Maurizio’s Macbeth, she hungers for more, loving the idea of being the reigning queen of the fashion empire, an ambition fueled by Salma Hayek’s Pina, another source of comic relief.
Starting a family feud never ended well for anyone but watching Gaga go from feminine dresses on dates to donning suits and leather as she spirals in her moral descent is pure joy. While we’re on the subject of dresses, it’s noteworthy to mention how little the film has to do with fashion for a flick titled after fashion moguls (unless you count that one scene where Paolo takes a leak on a scarf Rodolfo designed). In a way, Gucci products end up serving as a backdrop for a familiar plot that could probably be the story of any fictitious wealthy family.
For the most part, the film does what its trailer promised – it is a star-studded, over-the-top affair backed by addictive music (this is your cue to look up the soundtrack, you won’t be disappointed).
Director Ridley Scott is known for making any genre his own, and he does precisely that with his latest Oscar-buzz-worthy offering. However, the trouble with House of Gucci is that it doesn’t go far enough in one direction. Neither is it an in-depth analysis of a celebrity murder for true crime nerds, nor is it a serious fictional drama. Its tonal inconsistencies make it a bit of a fragmented watch. And then there’s the long run time dedicated to playing out the aforementioned fragments.
Is House of Gucci worth the hype? Well, that depends on who you ask. If you ask the IRL Tom Ford, he’ll tell you it’s like “surviving a hurricane,” but if you ask a fan of campy retellings of real-life events, you’ll find an entirely different answer.
House of Gucci is a 2021 Biopic Crime Drama film directed by Ridley Scott.