House of Gucci (2021)

In this age of the prestige that is the limited television series, something like House of Gucci feels tailor made for such a format. It hones an extravagant, exuberant nature, managing to be as satirical as it is melodramatic for the better part of 157 minutes, all the while serving gaudy, yet committed performances from reliable talent that all seem to be acting in their own individual film. There’s so much sprawl to collectively take in, that the film – even one as long as this – doesn’t feel like its doing Becky Johnson and Roberto Bentivegna’s script the justice it deserves, but, at the same time, you know it’s going to wholeheartedly commit to the lunacy all the same.

House of Gucci feels like the type of movie that on paper seemed like a flawless litany of capability. It was being helmed by director Ridley Scott, the story was ripe with violence, betrayal, and greed, and the cast was a varied who’s who of Oscar-celebrated talent.  The reality? Well, much like the story it centres on, is a little messier.  But that almost appears to be the point.  The focal characters are all larger-than-life personalities that are so far removed from sensibility that the soap operatic temperament Scott adheres to feels incredibly natural.  And though the performances are all speaking at a level of 11 – and everyone’s idea of 11 wildly varies – they too, somehow, feel organic to the exaggerated temperament the film shamelessly indulges in.

Lady Gaga’s Patrizia Reggiani – the singer being absolutely extra with an Italian accent that may or may not prove successful to viewers – wastes little time in upgrading her blue collar lifestyle when she happens upon Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver, one of the few actors aiming for a more understated mentality).  The early scenes of their meet-cute set-up play out like a romantic comedy waiting to happen, with her aggressive personality and his shy, bookish nature quite tenderly playing off each other.  Though we know Patrizia will ultimately do her best to overrun the Gucci brand and, you know, orchestrate her husband’s assassination, it’s evident that her infatuation with the sweet Maurizio originated from a genuine place of love.

Patrizia’s integration into the Gucci family allows the film to gradually introduce its wild array of personalities, with Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons, another talent underplaying it), first on hand, near-immediately disapproving of Patrizia, seeing her for the gold-digger that she truly is.  We’re unsurprised that Maurizio pays his father no mind, and the two are soon wed, though it’s her side of the family that proves the most supportive;  their wedding sequence quite a sad affair as the Gucci side of the chapel lays distinctly bare as she walks down the aisle.

Maurizio’s uncle, Aldo (Al Pacino), is a more welcoming presence, eventually leading Maurizio back into the fold, seemingly more accepting of his nephew and his lower class wife than he is of his own son, Paolo (Jared Leto, under a series of prosthetics, as wild and as over-the-top as you’d expect), the black sheep of the family that no one is able to tolerate; “He’s an idiot, but he’s my idiot”, he’s so lovingly referred to as on more than one occasion.  Much has been said of Leto’s performance, and even opposite the scene-chewing force that is Gaga he’s practically a caricature of a caricature but, sue me, I ate up every single time his Mario Brothers-inspired voice waxed lyrical about the difference between chocolate and shit.

Given how Patrizia wants to guide the Gucci name away from the common brand it’s slowly becoming and Paolo wants to infuse his own designs into the established aesthetic, it makes sense that the two would plot a collaboration in order to “take out the trash” and further Gucci’s presence, no matter the cost.  It leads to the inevitable, but Maurizio is ultimately the most innocent of the Guccis, his undoing purely the result of his surroundings and not his actions.

Unashamedly lavish and extreme in its delivery, House of Gucci is best viewed as the Dynasty-lite camp drama Scott appears to be channelling.  There’s nothing particularly funny about the true story at hand, and those expecting a serious crime drama best look elsewhere as this packages a brutal narrative within an overdone tabloid that exudes enough charm and shine to forgive its messiness.

House of Gucci is screening in Australian theatres from January 1st, 2022.

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