VOD film review: House of Gucci
James R | On 11, Feb 2022
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons
What makes a film “good”? At what point does over-the-top become over-indulgent? Why is this film over two and a half hours? And what accent is that meant to be? House of Gucci will lead you to ask all these questions and more over its lengthy runtime.
Ridley Scott’s awards heavyweight, based on the 2001 book of the same title, follows the intense relationship between Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), the heir apparent to the Italian fashion empire. Playing out more as crime drama than biographical portrait, the result is a claws-out catfight for the future of the Gucci dynasty, an ultimately fatal clash driven by ambition, decadence and revenge. The Brady Bunch, this ain’t.
In the hands of screenwriters Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna, Patrizia is every inch a classic screen femme fatale, climbing her way up from Milan parties into the pocket of Guccio Gucci’s grandson, mostly on the back of sheer gumption and charm. Uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) welcomes her into the fold, giving her all the opportunity she needs to move from a trucking business heiress – frowned upon by Maurizio’s frosty father, Rodolfio (Jeremy Irons) – to the self-styled queen of Gucci, with heels that would make Lady Macbeth blush.
And so the stage is set for a juicy, glitzy cousin of The Godfather, hopping across the country and around the world with ostentatious abandon. The cast are clearly having fun, whether it’s Driver’s slightly awkward outsider stuck in the middle of the family or Al Pacino’s roaring, oily businessman. In the wings, Jared Leto could never be accused of underplaying things as Paolo, the black sheep of the Gucci clan – his accent is the least convincing of a bad bunch, whether he’s wailing at a high pitch or speaking in a sing-song trill at an even higher pitch.
And yet it’s telling that Leto’s performance is perhaps the most in tune with the overall project, as he leans into the high-end tackiness without holding back – this is an excessive fable of excess, a more-is-more soap opera that doesn’t understand the phrase “too much”. At the heart of it all is Lady Gaga, who swans through the sea of suits, watches and shoes with a deliberately garish array of outfits and a charisma that’s electric. Her accent is as reliable as the source material – if you believe the Gucci family’s criticisms of the film – but she’s a delight to see in action, especially once she becomes friends with a clairvoyant (played with visible glee by Salma Hayek) and starts plotting a murder.
But while that sounds like fun, House of Gucci’s problem is that it doesn’t want to be an enjoyably gaudy affair. Compared to Scott’s understated Getty drama All the Money in the World, House of Gucci is as ripe as a saucepan of bananas left out in the sun, but it’s dressed up as something more serious and substantial. Is it good? Who knows. Is it fun? Sometimes. Strip away an hour from its bloated runtime and you’d have a deliciously vampy potboiler. As it is, it’s an ill-fitting prestige flick with a faint smell of ham.