People with a lot of money take fascination to a whole new level when big problems enter their lives. The fashion world exudes its own kind of glamour that casts a sparkle over every name it touches. When those two things are combined, get ready for something memorable. In both good and bad ways. Such is the case with House of Gucci, director Ridley Scott‘s new star-filled true-crime drama.
At least, most of the time, the film seems to intend to be a drama. That is the fundamental flaw with this film. Tonally, it is not solid enough. Moments of camp or theatricality leak in and don’t feel entirely integrated with the storytelling like they should.
To be fair, this particular real-life tale is one that should comfortably wear an over-the-top tone. In 1978, Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) meets and pursues Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), a scion of the fashion dynasty. Gucci was already a recognizable brand by this time, and the family was getting rich mostly by putting its logo on commonplace items. By the early ’90s, though, Maurizio has left Patrizia behind and she does not take it lying down. Maurizio is gunned down and Patrizia goes to prison for hiring the hitman.
The cast will be the headline of this film for most viewers, with all the Oscar nominations and wins among them. Maurizio’s father Rodolfo is played by Jeremy Irons. Rodolfo shares an equal stake in Gucci with his brother Aldo, played by Al Pacino. Aldo’s inept and dramatic son Paolo is played by Jared Leto. Salma Hayek also turns up as Patrizia’s friend (and later, accomplice) Pina.
Gaga is very good. She manages to convey a personality but also captures an attitude that feels very human. The chemistry she and Driver share is surprisingly high. Driver, meanwhile, is saddled with a character who seems to go from reserved, besotted, slightly naive guy to hard-nosed, philandering jerk with no stops in between. He is not interested in the Gucci company in the beginning but later becomes single-minded about being the one to take the company to new levels of respectability. The audience probably shouldn’t have to try so hard to care about the murder victim.
Jared Leto absolutely has to be discussed, too, because when he starts talking, you will do a double-take. His Paolo is a creation that you’re going to remember. And that’s not just due to the physical transformation. His performance feels like it exists in its own separate film, and that film just MIGHT be better than the one you’re watching.
On the production value side, a film about the family behind an iconic fashion house better have its costumes in order, and this one does. Costume designer Janty Yates is probably looking at another Oscar nomination. Almost every outfit Gaga appears in is impressive. The music, on the other hand, left something to be desired for me. Harry Gregson-Williams‘ score felt disjointed and some of the song cues were baffling.
House of Gucci never bores but alternates too wildly between scenes of interpersonal drama and grandiose ridiculousness. It’s entertaining to watch Patrizia cling to the Gucci name but there could also have been more consistency.