Synopsis: When Patrizia Reggiani, an outsider from humble beginnings, marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel their legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately…murder.
Stars: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Al Pacino, Salma Hayek, Camille Cottin, Jack Huston, Reeve Carney
Director: Ridley Scott
Running Length: 158 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: If you had asked me (or many Hollywood odds-makers) a few months ago about Ridley Scott’s chances in 2021 for finally snagging that elusive Best Director Oscar he’s been chasing for years, I would have likely told you that with two high profile films releasing within the last quarter of the year he was sure to get in for at least one. Well, despite October’s The Last Duel being quite impressive and receiving fairly good reviews from critics, the studio made a critical blunder by opening it the same weekend the repulsive Halloween Kills came out and it tanked…big time. Now Scott is back with House of Gucci, his second time at bat this year and it’s an even bigger project (the Knights of the Middle Ages never stood a chance against Scheming Italian Fashion Designers) so the stakes are higher.
What we have here is a limited series for TV/streaming that happens to be a nearly three-hour movie. So, somewhere along the line a serious error was made and the script by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna based off of the book by Sara Gay Forden was sent to MGM’s film division instead of its television extension. That’s the only reason I can think of for why Scott’s film has such a sprawling enormity that it eventually creates a black hole where the final act should be. I have nothing against a movie with a butt numbing running time and have been known to turn up my nose at those who want every movie to be 90 minutes. The thing is this, some movies have to carry a longer running length for a variety of reasons. What they also need to have is, well, an ending and that’s what House of Gucci sorely lacks. An ending.
Let’s back up almost three hours to the beginning of the film, when the future looked a little brighter for Scott and company. Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver, Annette) is out for his morning routine when he encounters a man that will change the destiny of his family and the Gucci clothing line forever. We’ll have to wait decades (in movie time) to find out precisely what that is because we flashback to an earlier period when Maurizio wasn’t involved with his family business but instead preferred to go through life without having his legacy define him. The moniker definitely was attractive to Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga, A Star is Born), a 22-year-old who met him at a party and cleverly positioned herself in his life so in the end he couldn’t say no to a relationship, and eventual marriage, to her. Despite the protestations of his father (Jeremy Irons, Assassin’s Creed) who believed his son’s fiancé to be a gold-digger, Maurizio was so taken with the woman that he willingly gave up his father’s favor for her.
It was years later, and on Patrizia’s behest, that Maurizio’s uncle Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino, The Irishman) convinced his nephew to come back into the fold and take his rightful place in the line of Gucci royalty. Once Maurizio was in, so was Patrizia…and that’s when the couple began cleaning house. Targeting relatives they had once used as pawns, like black sheep Paolo (Jared Leto, The Little Things), Patrizia and Maurizio began to recreate Gucci as the luxury brand it would eventually become…but not under their regime. Overzealous with their power and spending, the couple would go through rocky times, eventually leading Patrizia down a deadly path.
The question most will be interested in will be how Lady Gaga’s sophomore effort in a feature film fares compared to her Oscar-nominated turn in A Star is Born. There was a stretch of time where many thought the singer would win the award for her truly star-making performance but it’s this follow-up which is the real test. The result? A solid B. She attacks the role full on and you can tell she takes her job seriously, but the intensity of the acting is all over the map from scene to scene. Part of the blame could fall on Scott for not reeling her in a bit more and helping her understand emotional arc, but by the end she’s almost deliriously wild-eyed to the point of hilarity. It doesn’t help the scene in question (it’s with Salma Hayek where both are trying to be incognito) is laughably bad in general but her acting here only makes it stand out that much more.
Others in the cast sort of exist in her wake, with only Leto and Pacino surfacing occasionally to tell us they are also in the movie. For as much churn as Leto seems to stir up any time he’s in a movie, he’s an immersive actor like few are. Unrecognizable in heavy prosthetics and a fat suit, he doesn’t let the make-up do the acting for him…this is all Leto and it’s without question the best thing in the movie. Pacino exists in an area between Leto and Gaga, sometimes he’s on the money, other times he’s overblown. Either version of him worked for me. Driver is surprisingly beige in the role, failing to bring much life to the part. Maybe he was just adrift in the sea of Gaga and didn’t have much of a life raft? Bless her heart but Hayek (Eternals) is playing such a terrible role, terribly written and terribly filmed, and the actress does her best to make something of it. Alas, blood from a stone. Blood from a stone.
Scott’s film painstakingly recreates the period in which all of these infamous events take place, down to the décor and couture that were de rigueur. The fierce attention to detail is a dream to watch and from a production standpoint House of Gucci is a huge success on a scale of moviemaking with a capital “M”. You would expect nothing less of Scott who is a master at this type of product. Unfortunately, all the intricate features in the world can’t save some silly side characters and acting that grows increasingly campier (including the accents) as the film progresses. Then there’s the jittery ending which barely exists, made more disappointing because it’s handled so poorly, and you have a movie that begins by making quite the impression but leaves a bad taste in your mouth by the end.