So far, 2021 hasn’t been excessively kind to Ridley Scott. After his previous movie The Last Duel (only released barely a month prior) made $10 million on a $100 million budget, the 83 year director went on rants in a recent interviews about hating comic book movies and blaming millennials and their “fucking phones”. While this drew the obvious comparisons online with that meme of Grampa Simpson yelling at a cloud, I genuinely felt bad for the guy; I never went to see The Last Duel either (time constraints, I am neither a millennial or obsessed with my phone) and my vague guilt about this convinced to go see House Of Gucci – a movie from a genre (the biopic) that I usually can’t stand that’s set in a world I don’t care about. To be honest, I was dreading it, but to give the director his due, Ridley Scott has always gone big – but this time, instead of crafting entire future worlds or recreating ancient Rome, Scott’s obsession with scale is leveled at the performances as he delves into a world where good handbags doesn’t necessarily mean good people…
After a chance meeting at a party, ambitious Patrizia Reggiani meets Maurizio Gucci whose family is, of course, renowned world over for their luxury Italian label. Despite the fact Maurizio has no real interest in the family business and has his sights set on being a lawyer Patrizia has her sights set on him and romances the quiet young man into marriage. Booted out of the will by his father under the pretence that Patrizia is a gold digger (can’t imagine where he got that idea), the two find a relative happiness working for the truck firm run by Patrizia’s father, but soon the lure of the Gucci name comes calling again in the form of Maurizio’s uncle Aldo who wants to recruit his nephew to help him run the family business due to the fact fact that his cousin, Paolo is a saggy, delusional dipshit. At this point, Patrizia’s mountainous ambition kicks back in and she ensures her husband’s transition to the glamous world of high fashion and enviable status with whispered words and an impressive charm offensive until she get what she’s always dreamed of for her and her spouse.
Of course, anyone familiar with the tempestuous history of the Gucci family knows that the endless conveyor belt of wealth and glamour starts to erode what morals these people ever had and soon all the members of this dynasty are unwittingly lining up for more metaphorical back stabbings than there are actual ones in the entirety of the Scream franchise. Inevitably, a murderer lurks in the wings armed with something much more lethal than a Moschino gun…. (yeah, not too proud about that one, sorry…).
I’m not sure what I was expecting when settling down to watch House Of Gucci, but it certainly wasn’t the selection of gargantuan performances that the movie shuffles out in its pursuit of frenzied, chaotic melodrama. At the forefront is Lady Gaga’s role as the fabulously duplicitous Patrizia where she tears through scene after scene like a great white shark with immaculate shoes. Frankly, she’s magnificent, clad in figure hugging refinery and unleashing an accent as devastating and changing as a tornado she confidently treads the line between great acting and Joel Schumacher Batman villain. As the movie goes on and she obtains more and more power, the glint in her expressive eyes go steadily from Bambi to the witch from Snow White while looking like a vampiric Elizabeth Taylor. Almost matching her efforts in panel beating a ridiculous performance into high art is Jared Leto under a mountain of prosthetics (or, at least, I hope it’s prosthetics – we all know what Leto can be like) who makes cousin Paolo a stunningly pathetic chunk of comedy genius. Rolling every “r” the script throws his way like his life depended on it and treating every vowel like it’s an intruder that needs to be wrestled into submission, Leto excels at being nauseatinglypathetic while being buried under a fake paunch and jowels. In comparison, it initially seems that Adam Driver’s sedate Maurizio is the straight man of the piece but as the power moves get ever more treacherous, his downplayed delivery manages to stand out in this forest of gaudy accents. Backing up the leads are Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons who are the best I’ve seen them in a while who also hold their own thanks to being notorious old pros when it comes to serving up a good slice of ham.
While the performances are everything, it doesn’t feel like the movie is actually about anything and hardly has anything new to say other than greed corrupts like a bastard (and in breaking news: water is wet). It’s superficial as hell – but then I guess it’s supposed to be and despite boasting the world class cast, Scott isn’t above playing up the crassness of the world and dials up the scheming and histrionics to the levels of a mexican telenovela in order to make this true story feel as exaggerated as possible. Changing the tone of the film as often as Gaga accent changes region (at some points it goes far as Russia and I swear at one point, Transylvanian) and making the fashions as loud as the Gucci’s themselves, Scott may have delivered the stealth comedy of the year – whether he actually intended to or now is another matter altogether – but I was utterly enthralled from beginning to end.
Funny, intriguing and shot with Scott’s usual stunning flair for pretty things, House Of Gucci has it’s flaws, but the movie is crazy enough for them to almost become benefits and its real strength lies in its monstrous performances by actors portraying monstrous people who go all out like subtlety has suddenly gone out of fashion.