House of Gucci is easily one of the most highly-anticipated films of the year, and rightfully so with its starry cast and over-the-top marketing. Directed by Ridley Scott (it’s his second film of the year after The Last Duel), this movie stars Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek, Camille Cottin, and Jack Huston. Telling the true story of how Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) plotted to kill her husband Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), House of Gucci is sure to be a crowd-pleaser even if it has a couple of missteps along the way.
Going into this, you really don’t need to know anything about the truth of the Gucci family’s history. Maybe it’s actually better that you go in blind. While it feels like an exaggerated view of the truth, it makes it hard to look away from all of the fun that is happening.
There are two stories being told simultaneously here: the love between Patrizia and Maurizio, as well as the Gucci family’s business struggles.
Lady Gaga fully relinquishes herself to the role of Patrizia. You can just see the methodical processes playing out in the gears of Gaga’s mind. She acts with such conviction, and she is so convincing. Her eyes alone offer a window into the angst and the optimism and every emotion she undergoes. There couldn’t be two more fitting roles for Lady Gaga to take on in her first two feature films. If A Star Is Born was a love letter to the art of music, House of Gucci is a love letter to the business of fashion; two worlds Gaga knows better than anyone.
Patrizia is a businesswoman at heart, and Gaga taps into that side of her persona in a really effective way. A running theme, with her character in particular, is that this was a Cinderella story turned sour. There is a life-changing event that happens right at the halfway mark of the movie that marks a major tonal shift and a significant change in Lady Gaga’s character and how she approaches the role that I found mesmerizing.
Lady Gaga and Adam Driver have the most intense chemistry when they’re on screen together, and that’s a testament to the two of them as actors. Lady Gaga pulled off the same thing with Bradley Cooper, and Adam Driver has done it time and time again in his past work.
Adam Driver almost feels like he’s playing it safe with his performance, but then you have to consider that his entire character is built around playing it safe, so it’s fitting. This is yet another case where you’ll start out rooting for Driver’s character but hate him by the end. Poor guy keeps getting the short end of the stick with those characters, but he plays them so well.
The accents are pretty ridiculous, and I think there was some sort of on-set rule where you had to have a cigarette in your hand before you could walk in front of a camera. Jared Leto is undoubtedly hilarious, and he steals the scene (for better or for worse) every time he pops up. He’s wearing a fat suit, and he’s under a few pounds of makeup (I promise he’s really under there somewhere), but he totally turns over to this character. To some, I could see his character coming off as pretty offensive, but his eccentricity works in the context of the scenes. There are going to be endless memes and gifs made from his scenes (and the rest of the movie for that matter).
Ridley Scott mashes up a variety of styles and genres here that pulls in drama, comedy, biography, and satire. Is it camp? No, not really. A lot of early reception implied that this was a campy mess, but I think a better way to describe the vibe is self-aware. The script is so self-aware of the level of insanity that these characters are going through, and it’s because of that self-awareness that this works on any level at all. It makes it so entertaining.
A lot of movies feel like they’re doing the paint-by-numbers trick trying to get everything right, so I would much rather have a film that breaks free from those reigns to breathe new life into today’s landscape. The acting is far-fetched, the filmmaking is done to the max, and every element feels thought out. Even if it doesn’t land every punch, it’s trying something different, and that’s commendable.
It’s pretty rare to find a story as absurd as this, elevate it with an all-star cast of performances, and make it this accessible but still this engaging. An Italian soap opera turned up to twelve, there is much to admire. Afterwords, it might seem like it’s doing too much at once, but that’s the character of the film. Getting in the weeds, there is a lot to nitpick, but as a whole, this really does a lot right. In a way, it’s a slow burn. With a runtime over two-and-a-half hours, I did start to notice the length. However, I was also eating up everything that happened, and it never felt tiring or boring, so I can’t complain. Some scenes could have benefited from packing a bit more punch, and that makes other scenes (like the Gaga x Driver sex scene) feel like a particular change in pace. I really liked the way these characters trickled in throughout the first half. We see Lady Gaga, then we are introduced to Adam Driver and Jeremy Irons before meeting Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, and Camille Cottin.
To borrow a word from Jared Leto’s character, Paolo, House of Gucci is chic. It’s really doing the most, and that will certainly be a turnoff to some. These actors are all so committed to their roles, and I can only imagine the absurdity that took place on set while these actors stayed in character between takes.
The timeline feels uneven, but I liked the effort put in to help audiences keep track of everything. For instance, we can use Al Pacino’s character’s birthday parties as a means of measuring that a year has passed. It’s those little things that make this often messy movie make sense. It is edited very well, and it really knows where to draw its focus and when to pull back. The aspects that feel most crucial and entertaining are given the most screen time, while other parts that don’t mean as much to the essential storyline take a backseat.
You know where it’s ending up. Even if you don’t know, you know. The story is pretty predictable, but it is based off of real life after all. I think that makes the acting performances feel that much better.
House of Gucci opens in theaters this Wednesday, November 24.