Ever since it was first announced, House of Gucci has been about as high profile a title as there was in Hollywood. An A-list director, multiple A-listers in the cast, and a juicy true crime tale set in the world of high fashion. It was likely either going to be a massive success and huge Oscar player, or a disaster of epic proportions. That’s recently been the trend for filmmaker Ridley Scott, at least. So, it comes as a bit of a surprise that this movie manages to defy both sides of the expectation coin. House of Gucci is far more fun than expected, as well as mostly compelling. The flaws are there, but they don’t sink the flick. Ultimately, the film manages to be worth the substantial time investment, even if it’s neither a home run nor a future cult classic. It’s just a decently solid bit of cinema.
House of Gucci is, essentially, well done trash. Everyone is going big here, led by a turn from Lady Gaga that demands attention. Scott is letting his cast have fun, and it shows. Now, it leads to a messy nature that hampers the film as it progresses, but the first act is a highlight. Initially, the movie has a Martin Scorsese vibe to it, which lends to some major entertainment value. For some, boredom might set in by the end, but for others, it will be compelling from the first frame to the last.
This is a fictionalized account of the family behind the Italian fashion house of Gucci, as well as how that empire would eventually crumble. Changes are in store for the Gucci family when Patrizia Reggiani (Gaga) meets Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), an heir to the throne, as it were. Pursuing him intently, Patrizia woos Maurizio and soon, they’re in love and married, much to the chagrin of Maurizio’s father Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons). After all, she’s a commoner and an outsider to their ways. She must just be after his son’s money. Cutting them off, Maurizio takes a job with Patrizia’s father, but an invitation from his uncle Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino) is the entranceway for the pair to eventually make their way back into the clan. Of course, Patrizia has her eyes set on something bigger than that.
Aldo’s embracing of Maurizio and Patrizia brings them into the fold, but it also puts them at odds with Aldo’s black sheep son Paolo (Jared Leto). Thus begins a cold war in the family for control of the Gucci name, with Patrizia playing a kingmaker at the side of the more passive Maurizio. Of course, when their relationship begins to sour, she has no intention of giving up all that she’s come to know as her own. Eventually, something is set in motion that will change every part of the Gucci empire forever.
Lady Gaga leads the cast and she is certainly doing a thing here. Her accent is rough and she’s turned up to eleven at all times, but it’s undeniably enjoyable to watch her sink her teeth into the character. Without question, Gaga is giving it her all. I may have preferred her turn in A Star is Born, but this does nothing to suggest she isn’t a great actress. Going even bigger are Jared Leto and Al Pacino. The former is going to be divisive, as some will find him best in show, while others will not care for his performance on bit. I’m somewhere in between, frankly. The latter, however, is going even bigger than Gaga and has the single best time of anyone in the cast. He’s a riot. Conversely, Adam Driver and Jeremy Irons underplay their characters more than you’d expect. Driver especially loses almost all of his trademark intensity. Salma Hayek plays a key supporting role that did very little for me, but was essential to telling the story in a truthful manner, even if he character seems totally made up. Hayek does what she can, but it’s another cartoonish element of the film. Supporting players in the movie also include Reeve Carney, Jack Huston, and many more.
Director Ridley Scott is having himself a ball with this one. It’s a good thing, too, since the screenplay by Roberto Bentivegna (and Becky Johnston) is very messy. The allure of the first act and even some of the second wears off as you wait for the other shoe to drop in the third act. Scott’s lively direction and use of some amusing needle drops (more effective than the score from Harry Gregson-Williams, which is solid, yet forgettable) keep things moving for a while. However, even with that, as well as luscious cinematography from Dariusz Wolski, the story can’t hold its own for the 157 minute running time. A solid half hour could have been lost, with no diminished returns.
The awards prospects for House of Gucci remain murky for me. The Academy will have to be in a certain mood for it, but that may well be the case. If so, there could be Academy Award nominations coming for Lady Gaga in Best Actress, as well as some below the line possibilities. As always lately, Jared Leto remains an X factor in Best Supporting Actor for Oscar. I’m skeptical about Best Picture, but I also wouldn’t dismiss it entirely. I’d be as surprised if it scored six nominations as if it got shut out.
House of Gucci is far from perfect, but more of it works than doesn’t. The first hour or so is a blast, though it does go more than a bit downhill after that. This is basically well done trash, as mentioned above, so make of that what you will. Gaga fans will flock to this regardless, but it does present itself in a manner that will entice more folks than it will turn away.