There is a scene in House of Gucci, where Patrizia Reggiani-Gucci (Lady Gaga) comes across a back-alley vendor selling fake Gucci bags to unsuspecting housewives on the cheap. Married to Mauricio Gucci (Adam Driver), Patrizia has decided to take an active role in the Gucci family company, to the consternation of the rest of the family.
Outraged at what she’s found, Patrizia reports back to Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino), who runs the company with brother Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) and insists that Aldo do something about the counterfeit market, as it spoils the Gucci name. But Aldo is unconcerned, telling Patrizia who cares if a few housewives are sold fake product?
The ones who cannot afford the real thing are blissfully unaware, and the ones who can don’t care anyway. The subterfuge hurts no one. So what if these handbags are quality or if they are a cheap knockoff? Why spoil the fun with the truth? Ignorance is bliss.
That could be House of Gucci as well. Are we watching a serious depiction of the fall of the Gucci family, a document of betrayal, manipulation, and murder? Or are we watching camp, a spoof of true crime sagas with exaggerated performances and corny, soap opera dialogue? Or both? Not even director Ridley Scott seems to be sure, or if he is, he isn’t letting the audience in on it.
Lady Gaga seems to bounce between the two aspects of the film as well; she seems as confused as to what movie she’s making as the audience is. One moment she has a very strange, raucous sex scene with Driver, the next she is subtly manipulating the Gucci family to expand their empire at the risk of losing their brand.
Patrizia attends a party where she meets Driver’s Mauricio and instantly sees a mark that she can take advantage of. Or is it truly love at first sight? Gaga never really shows her hand here; her best moments are early on as she ingratiates herself to the Gucci family.
As the years go by, Patrizia pushes Mauricio to have a bigger say in the business, but she also plays brother against brother, and cousin against cousin, to make her own place in the family. This will all end in tragedy, the destruction of a family, and the end of the Gucci empire.
Ridley Scott’s last film, The Last Duel, was set in France but Scott wisely eschewed accents to concentrate on the story he wanted to tell and the truth of the performances rather than any language accuracy. In House of Gucci, however, Scott has all the actors speak exaggerated Italian accents and give very exaggerated performances.
If you hire Al Pacino for a movie like this, you’re going to get Pacino turned up to 11, because that is seemingly what the film calls for. But if you also hire someone like Adam Driver, who has always been a subtle, intense actor, and ask him to play Mauricio seriously, the result is a film that feels muddled in tone.
Is this a comedy? Is it a drama? Is this a tragedy? Perhaps the reality of House of Gucci is that it’s all three, at once. It makes for an interesting story, but it also can be very confusing because we can’t be entirely sure of the film’s intent.
Then there is Jared Leto‘s performance as Paolo Gucci, which may put him both in the running for the Oscar and the Razzie simultaneously. Paolo is a failure at pretty much everything he attempts, or as his father Aldo calls him, “He’s an idiot, but he’s my idiot.” Leto leaves nothing on the floor here. He plays Paolo as a farce one minute, and a tragedy the next.
There are a couple of scenes between Leto and Pacino that are so completely over the top that you simply must ride them to their conclusions. The more I sit with Leto’s work here, the more I feel that it’s brilliant. Just seeing Leto as Paolo walk into a room sent me into laughter. But Leto also manages to tap into the pathetic nature of the character.
It’s really something to see, how Leto juggles all these character aspects and makes the character riveting and entertaining. He’s by far the best performance of the film.
The rest of these characters aren’t despicable enough for us to even enjoy hating them properly, and never find the emotion for us to really care.
Is House of Gucci any good? No, not really. Is it entertaining? Yes, at times. Can I recommend it? Your mileage may vary. Be prepared for a film that takes its time to really get going, and then meanders through the final act. Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel is a far better movie; at least that one knew what story it wanted to tell, and what tone it wanted to set.
MGM‘s House of Gucci can’t decide to be comic or tragic in its two and a half hours run time, and ultimately becomes inert. Jared Leto is worth the price of admission; the rest, sadly, don’t seem to realize what movie they are in, and if they don’t know what kind of film House of Gucci is, how are we, the audience, supposed to know or care?