What in the world is House of Gucci about? On the surface House of Gucci is inspired by the true story of the Gucci family, a one-time dynasty that fell once family members started backstabbing each other with backroom dealings and buyouts. But what is the movie up to? What does it hope to gain by telling this story this way and with these performances?
I’ll try not to bore you with plot details—otherwise, you’ll have nothing to think about when you watch the movie— but the story opens with a young Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) meeting Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at a friend’s birthday party. He’s taken by her beauty—she reminds him of a young Elizabeth Taylor—she’s taken by his name. He’s the heir to the Gucci Empire, though he doesn’t seem that interested in it. The Maurizio Patrizia meets is shy, reserved, and seems uncomfortable in his own skin. Later he tells her he wants to be a lawyer, one of the good ones. “The only good lawyer is a dead lawyer,” Patrizia responds. I’m sure that joke was already old hat in the 1980s. It’s even more tired today.
At this point in the movie, Maurizio is still on the shy side, but a personality begins to crack through. A few scenes later, he tells Patrizia he resents his family and their mythmaking and chooses to marry her even if it means his father, Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons), will cut him off. Maurizio is a man of principle. Soon he’ll be calculating and manipulative. Then he’ll be cold and heartless and give in to all the vices he once despised. It’s quite a swing, and the movie earns none of it.
Patrizia’s arc is just as drastic. She goes from a doe-eyed ingénue in love with a rich boy with no money to a woman concerned that knock-off Gucci bags are eroding her family’s brand without much in the middle other than Gaga’s increasingly arch performance. In one scene, Paolo Gucci (Jared Leto) tells Patrizia a few family secrets, making her promise never to tell a soul. Patrizia responds by crossing herself and delivers the line “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the House of Gucci,” with a level of seriousness that should have made the sets buckle.
If Gaga was going for camp, she missed the exit by a mile. Leto is worse. In one scene, he is so overcome by “ohs” and “ehs” that he fails to complete a sentence. By this point in the movie, even Al Pacino, playing Aldo Gucci, can’t escape the black hole of bad acting.
There are no characters in House of Gucci, only caricatures. The costumes by Janty Yates feel appropriate but are equally over the top. It’s like the actors refused to be outdone by a blazer and calibrated their performances accordingly. None of it is reigned in by director Ridley Scott or editor Claire Simpson. The actors are too over the top, the scenes go on too long, and the movie is too boring to sustain a two-and-a-half-hour slog. And I didn’t even get to the part about Patrizia befriending a call-in fortune-teller (Salma Hayek). What a mess.
House of Gucci (2021)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Screenplay by Becky Johnston, Roberto Bentivegna
Based on a story by Beck Johnston and the book by Sara Gay Forden
Produced by Giannina Facio, Mark Huffam, Ridley Scott, Kevin J. Walsh
Starring: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Jared Leto, Jack Huston, Salma Hayek
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Rated R, Running time 157 minutes, Opens Nov. 24, 2021.