With its wall to wall cast of Oscar nominees (including four winners), eye popping promotional materials and an enticingly lurid true story behind it, Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci has been one of the most hotly anticipated films of 2021.
The film stars Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, a secretary at her father’s trucking company in Italy in the late 1970s’. A chance meeting with Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at a mutual friend’s party leads to a budding romance that introduces her to a world of glamour, wealth and intrigue she never could imagine. Maurizio is reluctant to get by solely on his famous last name, is studying to become a lawyer; furthermore, his father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons, rocking the hell out of a Clark Gable mustache) does not approve of Patrizia’s comparatively meager upbringing and decides to cut both off from the vast Gucci fortune.
Maurizio and Patrizia get married and settle down into a quiet, comfortable life free from the pressures of being part of the Gucci empire; this changes when Maurizio’s uncle, Aldo (Al Pacino) invites them to his birthday party in an effort to groom him as his eventual successor; Aldo’s own son, Paolo (Jared Leto), is seen as an “idiot” incapable of running the business properly, someone lacking in both fashion and common sense. This is the first sign of tension between Maurizio and Patrizia and the rest of the family.
Upon returning to his family business, Maurizio takes Patrizia to New York where both are seduced by the family’s growing wealth and power, and as a result become disgusted with Aldo’s seeming complacency in growing and modernizing the brand. This leads to a series of betrayals that change the dynamic of both the business and the family, and ultimately leads to dire (and deadly) consequences for Maurizio and Patrizia’s marriage.
Like the clothing brand itself, House of Gucci is sleek, stylish, flamboyant and full of intrigue. Scott and the cast clearly understood the assignment at hand; a story built around such eccentric situations and characters is bound to have moments of camp, but make no mistake: House of Gucci is a seriously well made film that makes the most of its pedigree.
This is largely due to the acting, particularly Gaga’s performance; as Reggiani, she is dynamic, enchanting, intimidating and powerful. Her transition from harmless secretary living out the ultimate Cinderella story to a shrewd, malicious femme fatale is wholly believable and worthy of whatever major awards may come her way. She simply commands the screen in a way that wholly betrays the notion that this is only her second major leading role in a motion picture.
Driver, questionable accent aside, is similarly affecting in his role as the ill fated Maurizio, having a palpable chemistry with his leading lady that crackles with energy. Pacino and Irons, two venerable elder titans, make the most of their comparatively meager supporting roles. Only Leto truly whiffs, as his take on dimwitted black sheep Paolo feels more like a Super Mario audition than a serious, nuanced take on an actual person; everything from his accent to his makeup to his clothes feels hammy and forced. (Salma Hayek is unfortunately wasted in her role as Reggiani’s psychic friend and eventual coconspirator, Pina Auriemma).
Visually, the film is stunning; Scott has not lost his place as one of cinema’s most unique auteurs. His shots of the film’s various exotic locales in Italy are sublime, and his ability to film in a way that makes you feel like you were in on the action, feeling the emotions and tensions of the characters as he did in Alien and Blade Runner, has not dissipated.
House of Gucci is enthralling, evocative, over the top and ruthlessly entertaining; it moves along at a great place thanks to its great acting and intriguing, if slightly convoluted storyline. People will no doubt quibble over its accuracy, not least of all the Gucci family themselves; regardless, the film succeeds just as a pure piece of escapism and artistry, no doubt aided by its more than worthy pedigree.