While somewhat way too long at over two and a half hours and often meandering and overloaded with outsized loud personalities, House of Gucci has a few interesting moments as greed, lust for power and prestige causes a couple to crumble from within. On first glance, this subject matter seems to be way outside of the wheelhouse of director Ridley Scott although he has often toyed with the ideas about people trying to be Gods, be it literally with aliens or robots, and then horrible things happen. This time is about people who think they’re the Gods of fashion, and then horrible things happen.
In late 70s Italy, working class girl Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) meets up with lawyer in training Maurizio (Adam Driver), who is the son of the famous house head Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons). While Rodolfo doesn’t like his son running around with a low born woman, Maurizio loves her. His Uncle, Aldo (Al Pacino), wants the family to reconcile and he invites Maurizio and Patrizia to help him run the Gucci family fashion empire. Aldo’s dim witted son, Paolo (Jared Leto), also wants to get in on the fashion company games but his talent is basically nonexistent. Soon bad business decisions and trouble with the family creates stress in Patrizia and Maurizio’s marriage and they drift apart, with Maurizio falling in with other women and Patrizia going to a psychic Pina (Salam Hayek) for support. Sinister plans are put into play to see who will be the head at the House of Gucci.
Gaga does an admirable job as Patrizia falls from unknown normal person to scheming criminal mastermind desperate to cling to power. A lot of the people in House are generally awful to each other, and Patrizia is no different. The film veers into near camp melodrama at times but it sort of fits the world its set in. These are very high strung rich folks who think they’re more important than anyone so they are going to act rather loudly and proclaim their greatness. Paolo is notable because he comes off as a creepy dumbass at first but as the film goes on he becomes more tragic. The power couple of Patrizia and Maurizio are taking advantage of him, even at one point shutting down his personal display of Gucci fashion under the guise of copyright infringement. Leto is particularly pathetic as Paolo, like when he tries to show his Uncle Rodolfo fashions he has created and Rodolfo immediately disregards them as mediocre hack work.
The fall of Patrizia is fascinating as she starts joyful but eventually goes completely power mad as Maurizio becomes more distant from her. There are little bits that Gaga adds of slight side eye glances that convey volumes. If A Star is Born was about Gaga’s character ascending into stardom due to her talent, House of Gucci is about Gaga’s character descent into madness due to lack of respect. The way Maurizio disregards her seems particularly cold blooded, especially in one scene when she shows up at his doorstep with photos of their daughter and he tells her that he doesn’t love her anymore. When she says she can’t believe she married a monster due he just replies “You married a Gucci”.
The way that Maurizio flips from guy who loves her to guy who dismisses her isn’t particularly well played out. He sort of just randomly switches from loving husband to coldly distant. Even though the character writing isn’t up to snuff, Driver plays the change well; he loves towards her at the start and is distinctly nasty Maurizio turns on Patrizia. Pacino as the Uncle is probably the loudest character in the film, he’s constantly putting his own son down and proclaiming that he is the head of Gucci so it can be whatever he wants. When Maurizio and Patrizia come to him with cheap knock offs, he writes it off as replicas that can make an exceptional amount of money. Later on, when he’s forced to sign away his controlling interest in the Gucci company, he does it in an incredibly bitter way where his signing the paper is seething with rage.
As Rodolfo, the Gucci family patriarch, Irons plays his usual stern jerk which he is quite good at. Although his Italian accent attempt seems a little weak as he still sounds more British than anything. He is palpable in his seething rage at his son for daring to fall in love with a low born commoner. As he gets sicker, he shows disgust at meeting with Paolo to listen to his ideas. Also interesting is when Rodolfo is sick, he immediately starts waving away the clouds of cigarette smoke that hang over everything like he’s dying of a smoking-related disease and can’t stand to be around it.
House of Gucci has bits that resonate rather well, such as the final moments of Maurizio that are downright harrowing, like a car crash playing out in slow motion. But some of the characters are too broad, the accents are rather all over the place, and the film is pretty slow which makes some of it an irritating drag. The lead performances are solid and there are some striking scenes although it takes quite a while to get to the good stuff.
House of Gucci
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek and Al Pacino