By Reed Ridley
House of Gucci
- Directed by: Ridley Scott
- Drama/Crime | R | 2 hr 38 min
- Exclusively in Theaters
Father, Son, and House of Ridley, we finally have House of Gucci, and it does not disappoint.
The film is the tale of the final stages of the Gucci family fashion empire as it falls apart amidst family turmoil and white-collar crime through the 80s and 90s. The focal point is Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and her courtship of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), and her eventual insertion into the power structure of Gucci, including family patriarchs Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons) and Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino), plus Aldo’s son, earnest-but-hopeless Paolo Gucci (Jared Leto).
House of Gucci is an acting showcase, plain and simple, and its performances excel across the board. Gaga thrives in these poppy parts, and while her and Driver’s romantic chemistry is ….lacking, their acting chemistry is sublime. Given Gaga’s history of incredible pop success, I’m always amazed at her ability to believably disappear into these types of roles, and she does it again here. Tellingly, despite its considerable length, the film only noticeably drags once Reggiani’s story takes a back seat to Maurizio’s in the final third of the film. Necessary given the story’s tethering to true events, but frustrating all the same, and a true testament to Gaga’s gravity.
The film directly draws from The Godfather, albeit with a much lighter tone, primarily through Driver’s Maurizio, a Michael Corleone stand-in who begins the film as a bookish aspiring attorney trying to separate himself from the family business only to end up assuming his ordained place at the top and becoming ruthless and cold in the process. It doesn’t reach the epic heights of its muse, but it’s not trying to. Driver sells the transition superbly, using his close to one-of-a-kind range to play essentially two characters, with many stops in between. Too, not many actors out there can rock the Gucci suit line like Adam Driver, and the film knows it.
Speaking of that lighter tone, this is one of the funniest films of the year, full stop. And not in a so-bad-it’s-funny way, either, although the trailers hinted at that distinct possibility. The film is in on the joke, even as its all-American cast puts on some of the most Mario-and-Luigi accents ever put to screen. Much of it comes from Leto’s transcendent performance as Paolo; Leto is notorious for his often disrupting and distracting method acting, but I can’t imagine a better use of his talents than the Paolo character. He’s utterly useless, but at the same time, so earnest, you can’t help but root for him. It doesn’t hurt he’s got maybe the top-five lines of the film, all uniquely hilarious.
Legends Pacino and Irons round out the main cast, and each also adds a certain spice to the mix. Pacino is much more reserved than one would think in a role like this (aside from a few stray “konnichiwas”), and it results in a deeper and more nuanced portrayal than we might have received in less capable hands. Too, Irons also nails it as a deteriorating icon watching his empire slip away from his control as his health does the same, and he delivers some of the more devasting lines of dialogue, most notably to poor Paolo.
This wouldn’t be a Ridley Scott without an immaculate polish to technical details, and for a film with a name like Gucci in the title, his signature flair is glorious. It’s obvious the team behind the outfits took their time, and rightly so given the film’s content. The shots of Italy and the surrounding country are also brilliant, spanning from a golden, tanned countryside, to stark wide Swiss alps, and cityscapes in between. The only technical part that doesn’t fully work is the soundtrack; while the needle drops at times work well, sometimes they’re completely jarring to the point of bewilderment (here’s looking at you, George Michael’s ‘Faith’).
There will be plenty of people who see this film and dismiss it as too long, boring, and silly. And honestly, I wouldn’t fault them for those points, as there is certainly an argument most of the comedy isn’t intentional and it devolves into a ridiculous, over-the-top mess. But, for those who see it as a thrillingly entertaining acting display, or who just want to see glorious costume and production design delivered via movie stars for a couple hours, it’s an utter delight.