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Review: 'House of Gucci'

It would seem that Ridley Scott was trying to create something akin to Goodfellas (1990) -- a dark, modern-day, fact-based crime saga about corruption and greed.

All the elements were there including the shocking murder of one of the most famous, fashion icons in recent history, Maurizio Gucci from the famed, family-owned House of Gucci.

I wonder what this movie would have looked like if it had been directed by Martin Scorsese of Francis Coppola, or someone who had a better handle on story material like this.

It’s not that Ridley Scott is a bad director. His resume includes blockbuster hit movies like Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982) and Gladiator (2000). He’s even dabbled in darker themes in movies like American Gangster (2007), Body of Lies (2008) and The Counselor (2013). But none of those movies have the tragic Shakespearean quality of House of Gucci.

At its black heart is a tale of greed, crime and corruption that leads to a shocking assassination, of a powerful family member, no less. It’s cold, calculating and brutal.

In addition to that, it’s about the fall of an empire, in this case, a world-famous fashion empire.

House of Gucci is a complicated, complex story involving a half dozen major characters.

At the top of the list is Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) who meets, seduces and eventually marries a reluctant heir apparent to the throne of Gucci, Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver).

Jeremy Irons plays Maurizio’s ruthlessly calculating father, Rodolfo Gucci who is the head of the family business. Al Pacino plays Aldo Gucci, Rodolfo’s brother and business partner.

An unrecognizable Jared Leto plays Paolo Gucci, Rodolfo’s bungling, talentless son who dreams of someday taking control of the House of Gucci.

Those are also the aspirations of Patrizia who, after marrying Maurizio, begins a relentless journey to acquire power and influence within the company, though she is woefully unqualified for the task.

What she does have is a ton of ambition and a single-minded sense of purpose that will let nothing get in her way, including her husband Maurizio when their marriage begins to fall apart, and he decides to cast her aside for another woman.

There has been a lot of buzz about Lady Gaga’s star performance in House of Gucci. Though best known for her celebrity status as a pop diva superstar cast in the mold of Madonna she has proven some considerable talent on the big screen as evidenced in her breakout performance in the recent remake of A Star is Born (2018). Her original song for that movie, “Shallow” earned her an Oscar.

Though maintaining her stage presence as a singer including some popular pairings with legendary performer Tony Bennet, Lady Gaga seems intent on furthering her movie career.

For her role in House of Gucci, she reportedly dove deep into character, immersing herself in her character’s accent and mannerisms during the entirety of the filming. It’s called Method Acting, a school of performance that emerged in the 1950s with the Actor’s Studio in New York City and its string of celebrity graduates including Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger and Marilyn Monroe.

Her total commitment to her performance is generating a lot of press. Oscar consideration will follow despite a tendency to go a little over the top. Her intensity level seems mild by comparison when you take into consideration Al Paccino’s signature screen explosiveness that he is hired to deliver whenever a role demands it. He’s made a career out of it. Love it or hate it, his fans love his legendary, on-screen outbursts.

Jared Leto, in many ways, the real life poster child of Gucci fashion (he has appeared in their magazine ads) is ironically cast as the idiot son who never wears Gucci fashion in the movie.

Leto, who loves to disguise himself in movie after movie (Dallas Buyers Club (2013), Suicide Squad (2016), The Little Things (2021) appears here in a fat suit and heavy prosthetic makeup, looking old enough to be his father’s sibling instead of his son.

His mannerisms—physically and vocally—seem to be shamelessly borrowed from the Frankie Pentangeli character played by Michael V. Gazzo in The Godfather: Part II(1974). Check it out sometime.

I’m wondering if somebody out there could cast Jerod Leto as handsome, hip young Jesus sometime. You could save yourself the cost of a makeup artist.

As mentioned, House of Gucci is a complicated story that runs long (2 hours 37 minutes). For the record, that seems to be a trend lately with movies like No Time to Die and The Eternals running longer than 2 hours and 30 minutes.

As a blanket criticism here, each of these movies would have benefited if they had been trimmed down to around the standard 2 hours of screen time.

The script here is a slow cooker that noticeably drags a bit. That’s not to say that it doesn’t hold interest. It is that glimpse into the whacky world of the Rich and Famous that makes House of Gucci work on some level. These are eccentric people playing for high stakes, who will do pretty much anything to succeed. Even if it resulted in a prison sentence.

That’s apparent in the opening scene in which we see the unwitting Maurizio riding back to his posh hotel on his bicycle unknowingly stepping into the path of a hired assassin. The rest of the film is flashback leading us back to the fatal moment at the very end.

Look for Adam Driver to also receive an Oscar nomination for his work in House of Gucci. It’s one of his better films. It would have been an even better film if the screenplay and direction had been more focused.

While I have a ton of respect for Ridley Scott, House of Gucci was not really his forte.

What the movie offers is the voyeuristic thrill of watching this morality tale being played out. It’s especially entertaining and head-spinning when you realize that it all actually happened.


House of Gucci is in theaters now.


Photo Credits: Fabio Lovino

© 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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