Gaga reigns in Ridley Scott’s sometimes absurd drama, which is based on true-life stories of the Italian fashion dynasty.
Patrizia Reggiani said that she was “the most Gucci of them all” in a 2014 interview. This is a funny, comically tinged, and entertainingly ripe tragedy. Reggiani, also known as “Lady Gucci” and “Black Widow”, was the center of a 1990s scandal that involved lust, money fashion murder… and a psychic. Ridley Scott’s “true story” adds another dimension to this tabloid-friendly mix. Lady Gaga, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in A Star Is Born, relishes the opportunity to uncover the human cracks underneath a femme fatale, larger-than life, surface.
House of Gucci is adapted by Roberto Bentivegna and Becky Johnston from Sara Gay Forden’s nonfiction book. It follows a crowd-pleasing journey from the 1970s Milanese party scene to a high-profile trial at the end of the century. The heart of the film is the tragic romance between Patrizia Gucci and Maurizio, played by Adam Driver, cinema’s sexy nerd-de nos jours. “I want to know how this story goes,” Patrizia says, embarking on a twisted fairytale romance that begins with masked balls, talk of pumpkins and midnight chimes, and ends with family backstabbings, jealous rages, and deadly rivalries.
All that is operatic passion begins as Patrizia writes her number in lipstick on the scooter’s windscreen. It’s an arresting image: him, a dork riding on two wheels. She, a high-wire circus act performing unicycling across the great top of dynastic wealth. Although she may not be able to tell a Klimt from a Picasso by her own, Patrizia is a showgirl with a lot of energy, just like Nomi from Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls.
This is how Jeremy Irons’s vampiric Rodolfo, who disowns his son for marrying into a family made up of “truck drivers!” Al Pacino’s sly Uncle Aldo is even more in love with Patrizia, and allows her and her nephew to access the fashion house he owns with his brother. One moment Patrizia is a trucking magnate’s daughter; the next, she’s Lady Macbeth, preparing “to take out the trash”.
Equally swift is the transition from happy marriage to hellish separation, with spicy innuendo (“I’m sure Maurizio would love your strudel”) signalling a super-fast shift of devotions from Patrizia to Paola (Call My Agent’s Camille Cottin). The shadow of nbsp.The Godfather lurks behind it all, offering an archetypal template to everything, from the rural outdoor feast at which Pacino presides to the intercutting and baptismal dunkings in bathwater.
Then there’s Jared Leto, an actor who seems to have a mantra that “never knowingly underestimated” in his acting. Leto seems to be playing the role of Aldo’s stupid son Paolo in his private audition tape for awards. After having walked the entire length of the hair and makeup counter, Leto appears to be Andy Kaufman’s ridiculous alter ego Tony Clifton. He is a prosthetic symphony consisting of silly suits and protruding stomachs. Leto’s voice is quite different from others. While some use slightly absurd Italian accents, Leto speaks in high-pitched howls that suggest he is trying to communicate with whales. Leto’s witty screen presence is only matched by Pacino. Later scenes of the pair in a state of tragedy disarray seem like scenes from an Italian remake.
House of Gucci is reminiscent of Scott’s 2017 Getty family drama. All the Money in the World. It does a good job of recreating its recent-history setting. The palette features a beige and brown palette, which smells of nicotine and caffeine. There are occasional flashes of monochrome reportage-style. It’s musically a joke, Pavarotti, Tracy Chapman, Blondie and Caterina Caselli rubbing shoulders, with a wedding to George Michael’s Faith.
Expectations of a Mommie Dearest-style camp-fest will not be fulfilled by the trailer. For better or worse, House of Gucci seems a little too well-behaved to be a cult favorite. Gaga deserves a nod for her determination and for navigating the madness with a steely stance – not for being poorer but for being richer. In kitschness as well as in wealth.