You have to give it to Ridley Scott. The 83-year-old stalwart is a machine, producing or directing film after film, year after year. Quantity, however, does not equal quality; while Scott has certainly made quite a few classics, he’s had his share of thunderous missteps. Scott follows up the tremendous medieval psycho-drama The Last Duel with the infinitely inferior psycho-babble that is House of Gucci. Lacking the confidence, intellect, and grit of its predecessor, the crime drama never finds a rhythm, vacillating between a gauche, on-the-nose satire, and a superficial, surface-level biography.
The blame does not rest entirely on Scott’s shoulders; he directs with his usual panache, effortlessly transitioning between beautifully shot (courtesy of master cinematographer Dariusz Wolski) sequences and manages to make them somewhat involving. Unfortunately, Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna’s script, based on Sara Gay Forden’s book, lets him down. It fails to dig under the extravagant, larger-than-life characters’ skins, attempting to compensate with a momentum that lags and lurches.
Oscar nominee Lady Gaga hams it way up as Patrizia Reggiani, the infamous spouse of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver). The 150+ minute runtime follows their meeting at a party, her stalking him, Patrizia and Maurizio’s marriage, and the (re)building of the Gucci empire. Along the way, we witness the scandals, incestuous inner politics of running a global family business, and the act of ultimate betrayal leading up to the well-publicized assassination.
“…scandals, incestuous inner politics of running a global family business, and the act of ultimate betrayal…”
House of Gucci takes lengthy, redundant detours, such as Patrizia’s relationship with Pina (Salma Hayek), the fortune-teller. Other subplots are more compelling, but perhaps not for the intended reasons. Jared Leto‘s performance as Maurizio’s cousin, Paolo Gucci, is so over-the-top that it bursts right through the top and swallows up the film whole. Unrecognizable under layers of make-up, speaking in high-pitched, heavily-accented intonations, he’s a live-wire but also a caricature that borders on nasty stereotyping. He out-gagas Gaga (who’s at least partially of Italian ancestry), which is no small feat.
Speaking of accents, boy, do they vary, from decent (Gaga) to terrible (Driver). If the characterizations were any deeper, this disparity wouldn’t have been as glaring; alas, each member of the extraordinary cast either goes through the motions or chews the scenery with lip-smacking relish. Gaga is all heightened mannerisms, a gimmicky performance whose tiring antics will surely be mistaken for Great Acting. Nothing is revealed about the notorious public figure that can’t be read in an Elle article. What drives her to the awkward Maurizio? Is it money, love, or both? She commands attention, sure, but does so in the same ostentatious, glib manner that’s evident in her music videos.
Adam Driver, whose phenomenon I too am attempting to comprehend (and was about to with The Last Duel, in which he was rather excellent), phones it in. He never provides a way into the introverted Gucci, nor a reason to search for one. Hayek is wasted in a perfunctory role. Living legends Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons, as Aldo and Rodolfo Gucci, respectively, are the only ones who imbue their personas with a semblance of real gravitas.
House of Gucci should have gone “full camp”, given the scandalous subject matter, the beloved brand, and the much-hyped central performance. Too bad the result is so dull, so by-the-numbers. Good thing Scott’s got over 70 titles in development; he’s bound to hit the jackpot with both critics and audiences soon.
"…[Leto] is so over-the-top that it bursts right through the top and swallows up the film whole."