House of Gucci doesn’t know what it wants to be. It’s part soap opera, part Goodfellas, and not a whole lot of Ridley Scott. Scott takes a measured approach to the film and gives us probably 75% of what this could be. Is it Oscar-bait? Is it trying to be a comedic look into how rich people face similar issues that we all do? Everyone involved in the story is either malicious, dumb, or maliciously unintelligent. The audience has no one to root for, and it shows. The cast is varied and star-studded. They all perform admirably (for the most part), but some are used better than others.
The film follows the rise and fall of the Gucci family empire from the 1970s to the 1990s. There are plenty of players here, with the heads of the family being Aldo (Al Pacino) and Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons). Aldo controls the business side of things, bringing Gucci into the stratosphere of fashion. Rodolfo is a recluse who wants his son, Maurizio (Adam Driver), by his side to relive his past. Aldo’s son Paolo (Jared Leto) is a bumbling idiot of a man-child that can’t get his life together and disappoints his father. Patrizia (Lady Gaga) comes into Maurizio’s life by chance and sees an opportunity to join the family. They quickly go on a whirlwind relationship that ends with Rodolfo disapproving of Maurizio’s choices.
The setup for the story is pretty simple, and it’s only once it gets past the lovey-dovey mush that the story picks up. Unfortunately, this is not a love story, it’s not a happy story, and there are no redeemable characters here. Even side characters that seem to be good-intentioned have ulterior motives. It’s a testament to the screenwriters (Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna) that they could get through an entire movie here without one character that was easy to root for.
Murder, Bad Accents, And Jared Leto
This all leads to a murder that’s more swept under the rug than anything else in the film. This isn’t about the end of the story; it’s all about how we got there. Patrizia and Maurizio get married and seize the opportunity to step into Aldo’s life. Aldo sees Maurizio as the son he always wanted. Naturally, they move up the social and company ladder, with Patrizia manipulating things along the way. She uses her charm and wit to get Aldo and Paolo on her side.
Lady Gaga is easily the highlight of the film, and she’s the reason why a lot of people are going to see this film. Gaga showed that she could stand with titans of acting in A Star Is Born; here, she cements her place. Unfortunately, her accent and a lot of other accents on the film waver in effectiveness and quality. Some scenes have perfect accents that aren’t comical sounding; others (involving Jared Leto mostly) verge on parody.
Al Pacino as Aldo is the backbone of the film and sort of the only person we can root for, but even he has issues with the law. He dials it up in some scenes and heads back to a prime acting place that we haven’t seen out of him in a while. His scenes with Adam Driver are few and far between, but easily some of the best work in the movie. Pacino also provides a good bit of comedy in the film, berating his “idiot son” Paolo.
Jared Leto is not for everyone. He’s a fine actor that takes up performances that make or break movies. His appearance in House of Gucci is unrecognizable. That’s for the best because the performance would be hugely distracting if he looked any more like Jared Leto. Leto gets right up to the point of verging on “it’s just plain bad” territory but never crosses that threshold. Instead, he gives a performance that fits in with the rest of the tone and quality of the cast.
No Sympathy For Anyone Involved
The one thing that hampers House of Gucci is the tone of the film. It can’t decide if it wants to be a classy family drama or a dirty look into the lives of the rich and famous. Unfortunately, Ridley Scott didn’t pick a lane, and it shows in the film. However, this is still a cautionary tale of how human nature and greed can get to everyone. Manipulation abounds, including the seemingly master manipulator Patrizia getting her own medicine from a TV psychic played by Salma Hayek.
The only person who can be seen as redeemable or that the audience should root for is Maurizio. Although his quick change of heart dashes this on Patrizia in the second and third acts of the film. There seems to be something missing showing how this change went on. In the film currently, it’s abrupt and happens out of nowhere. Maurizio and Patrizia have a seemingly good relationship, up until they don’t.
The film captures the era and looks brilliant. If anything, this should get award nominations for costume design and set design. It’s straight out of a Gucci catalog. It’s like the characters in the film, masquerading as something it’s not. There’s a high-class look but a low-class feel to the proceedings.
Bravo, Father, Son, And House Of Gucci
House of Gucci isn’t the best film of the year; it’s not Ridley Scott’s best film of the year. Through the film, it’s split by what it wants to provide for the audience. However, the film still succeeds in telling this story of lies, deception, idiocy, and murder. The ensemble cast drives this film, and the frenetic pace suits the film well with extended runtime. It might be 2+ hours long, but at points, it feels much shorter than that. It’s got warts and faults, but the movie is still entertaining for this tumultuous holiday season.
House of Gucci could have been much worse. In the wrong hands, this would have been a straight-up parody looking like an SNL skit. The film veers over to that territory at points, but it never reaches that far. For a tale all about greed, pomp, and circumstance, House of Gucci isn’t precisely what’s expected.
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