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Conflicted ‘House of Gucci’ nowhere near as seductive as it promises

Conflicted ‘House of Gucci’ nowhere near as seductive as it promises

Conflicted ‘House of Gucci’ nowhere near as seductive as it promises
December 02
14:30 2021

“Strong family makes a strong business.”

Much like its central family, the “House of Gucci” should have it all: glamour, thrills and, above all, fun. A biographical crime drama directed by Ridley Scott weaving a decades-long tragedy of betrayal, familial strife and murder plus a cast including Lady Gaga and plenty of other heavyweights like Adam Driver, Al Pacino and Jared Leto. In many ways, it all sounds too good to be true, and in almost as many ways it is. 

Detailing the blossoming courtship and eventual separation between gold digger Patrizia Reggiani (Gaga) and meek Maurizio Gucci (Driver) from the ‘70s to the ‘90s, director Scott’s crime soap opera could have been a serious, buttoned-up biopic or even a campy, balls-out melodrama. Instead, it seesaws back-and-forth between the two to mixed results. While most of Scott’s performers deliver dynamite characters, a couple of flubs in both the writing and pacing nearly derail “House of Gucci” from the glitzy rails to send it plunging into the gutter. 

As the central protagonist, Lady Gaga is endlessly entertaining and engaging as Patrizia, a woman who blurs the line between being genuinely devoted to her loved ones and inevitably drawn to the promise of wealth. Her Italian accent is inconsistent at best, but she overcomes any faults during the more serious moments and delivers delicious ham during the lighter moments. Opposite her, Driver actually gets the possibly meatier role as Maurizio, who goes from a meek, polite lawyer looking to distance himself from the family name to a strategist daring and sly enough to match his bride. 

In their corners are such capable actors as Pacino, Leto and even Jeremy Irons. Pacino, known as a king of eating the scenery, actually balances his more over-the-top tendencies with a more grounded presence in which his more boisterous tendencies actually serve him as Gucci boss Aldo. As Maurizio’s father, the gloomy Rodolfo, Irons similarly gets to do more stoic work, contrasting well against the more flamboyant performers as this more socially adept statesman who uses sharp remarks and a smile to disguise his verbal backhands.

However, Leto is uneven as funnyman Paolo Gucci, dressed head-to-toe in prosthetics, makeup and doing one complete farce of an accent. He is every stereotype under the sun and while this makes him incredibly endearing and hilarious for his first few scenes, his repeated presence when it feels unneeded really grinds the movie’s pace to a near-halt. 

Behind the camera is where things further muddy the waters. Scott and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski turn in some lush locales despite the desaturated color palette they bring over from previous work, though Scott feels less experimental and confident here than he did in “The Last Duel,” which he released just over a month prior to “House.” There’s some nice slow-motion, some nice fashion shows but nothing illustrative of the man’s nearly five-decade plus experience. 

Both the story and script, by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna, also lack quite a bit of substance, with the second and third acts feeling considerably truncated. While Driver does a lot to illustrate a subtle character arc for Maurizio, the rift between him and Patrizia feels a little rushed in the transitions between Act 2 and 3. 

Neither Scott nor his writers also really do much to mend the jarring shifts in tone. Scenes of two characters farting around for comedy are immediately followed by one realizing they have just lost everything that defined their entire life, or Leto’s Paolo continuing to deliver farcical one-liners when the scene is clearly calling for somber commiseration or anger. What should be camp instead emerges off as an unintentional failure in dramatics. 

Ultimately, as many problems as it has, “House of Gucci” does entertain with its theatrical performers and slick handling, as indistinctive as it is. Gaga thrills with her brazen antagonist, while Driver delivers one of his better career performances and it is certainly more a fun ride than a tedious slog. However, when it comes to true crime soap operas, there are simply better houses to visit. 

Will’s final rating: ⅗

Image source Fabio Lovino

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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