At 83 years old, director Ridley Scott will take a crack at just about any story. He’s headed up classics in the horror, sci-fi and war genres, fine-tuning a chameleonic approach that has kept him sharp throughout his storied career. With his latest project, the glamorous but lugubrious House of Gucci, he finds his latest tale to tell at the intersection of high crime and high fashion. He’s tackled true crime stories before, most recently in 2017’s All the Money in the World, but where that film generally plays it straight when recreating the kidnapping of John Paul Getty, Scott decided he wanted to dial up the camp considerably this time around. It’s not a bad call, given the talented cast that he’s assembled, but when you take that element away from the film, you’re left with a flimsy story that’s not juicy enough to justify this big-screen retelling.
We’re introduced to Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) as she struts past cat-callers to the managing office of her father’s modest trucking company. She’s no stranger to using her lavish looks to get what she wants, allowing her to fast-track a meet-cute with fashion heir Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) into a swift marriage and pregnancy. Maurizio’s father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) expresses his suspicions of Patrizia early and often, while Rodolfo’s brother Aldo (Al Pacino) seems to favor Patrizia over his maladroit son Paolo (Jared Leto). Shake-ups in Rodolfo’s health lead to Maurizio inheriting 50% stake in his family’s prestigious brand, a shift that causes Maurizio to become more invested in the business than in his marriage.
Shot with the same steel-tinted remove as All the Money in the World, House of Gucci is the second film Scott has released this season that doesn’t exactly invite viewers into its potentially entrancing setting. Certainly the production design and the costume design are as stellar as one would expect — Gaga’s opulent outfits alone may be worth the price of admission for some — but there’s a repeated color palette here that I wish Scott would sidestep next time. He doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel from the aural perspective either, tapping overplayed late-era disco hits like “Heart of Glass” and “I Feel Love” to remind us that we’re in early 1980s New York and things are moving fast. The opera cuts are even more predictable; there’s literally a scene where Patrizia and Paolo dance to “La donna è mobile” from Verdi’s Rigoletto (trust me, you’d recognize it) in an oversized kitchen.
Scott and his performers can’t quite decide how seriously we should be taking the pile of Italian cliches that stack up like knockoff handbags in an ignored bedroom closet. When characters don’t have an espresso cup pressed up against their lips, they’re speaking in a wide range of dialects that can best be categorized as “scattershot spaghetti”. Jeremy Irons barely abandons his native English accent, while Jared Leto runs with a phonology that would be considered borderline offensive even in a Super Mario Bros. animated show. Gaga not only gives the film’s best performance but also offers an accent that veers into Natasha Fatale territory at Patrizia’s most sinister moments but is otherwise the most measured vocal work in the movie.
Bursting onto the Hollywood scene with an Oscar-nominated role in A Star Is Born, Gaga proves once again that she has the chops to dominate the music and film industries simultaneously. As the original “Black Widow”, she balances femme fatale proclivities with a woman doing her best to find her way in the world. It’s a juicy role and it’s no surprise fashionista Gaga would jump at the chance to play someone tied into Gucci’s legacy but Scott and his screenwriters Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna don’t seem to have the same gusto in their assignments. The events that lead to the tragedy of Maurizio and Patrizia play out with too little personal perspective on the corresponding real-life events. Like Disney’s Cruella from earlier this year, House of Gucci has plenty of window dressing but not enough in the store to back it up.
Score – 2.5/5
New movies coming this weekend:
Premiering on Netflix is The Power of the Dog, a Western starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst about a charismatic rancher whose world is turned upside down when his brother brings home his new wife and her son.
Streaming on Disney+ is Diary of a Wimpy Kid, an animated comedy starring Brady Noon and Chris Diamantopoulos about a beleaguered middle schooler who chronicles his hormonal hardships in the pages of his trusty journal.
Playing at Cinema Center is I Carry You With Me, a Spanish-language drama starring Armando Espitia and Christian Vázquez about a decades-long romance that begins in Mexico between an aspiring chef and a teacher.
Reprinted by permission of Whatzup