HOUSE OF GUCCI review by Mark Walters – Lady Gaga & Jared Leto lead an all-star true crime story

HOUSE OF GUCCI review by Mark Walters – Lady Gaga & Jared Leto lead an all-star true crime story

I’ve been thinking a lot about HOUSE OF GUCCI since seeing the advance screening, this being the second of two Ridley Scott films released this fall, and just about a month apart too. Sadly, THE LAST DUEL hit theaters in October and severely under-performed, which is particularly upsetting as it’s clearly the better of the two productions. HOUSE OF GUCCI is based on the true story told in the book “The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed” written by Sara Gay Forden. For those who don’t follow the news, you’ve likely at least heard of Gucci, a major brand name in the world of fashion. At the top of Gucci’s brand for its strengthening era was Maurizio Gucci, who was tragically murdered. The film stars Adam Driver as Maurizio, his second effort this year working with Ridley Scott. But the big selling points here are arguably Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci, almost unrecognizable in the film, along with Lady Gaga, Al Pacino, and Jeremy Irons. While I’m sure the Italian accents here might seem spot on to some, there is something kind of amusing about it, as it almost feels like watching a Saturday Night Live skit… and sadly it doesn’t really play better while watching the film.

Gaga plays Patrizia Reggiani, a woman working in her humble family business who one night meets and becomes enamored with Maurizio Gucci (Driver), a reserved man who comes from a wealthy family, but aspires to make his own way and doesn’t ask for much. These two fall in love, but Patrizia doesn’t live up to the high standards of Maurizio’s father Rodolfo Gucci (Irons), and their relationship causes a rift between father and son driving them apart. Maurizio’s enterprising uncle Aldo Gucci (Pacino) however welcomes them both to join his successful retail business, seeing the couple as the children he desired in place of his own awkward and talentless son Paolo (Leto). As Maurizio becomes more involved in Aldo’s corporation, Patrizia sort of guides his actions and motivations, ultimately pushing him to take over the company and make Gucci the premium brand she feels it should be. At first her manipulation leads to success, but it also leads to the destruction of their relationship, and Patrizia can’t handle the idea of no longer being in control… especially of Maurizio.

HOUSE OF GUCCI feels like other similar movies you’ve seen time and time again, the story of a successful empire being built and flourishing, only with major conflict brewing behind the scenes. But somehow here it all comes across as a bit tacky and predictable, and the performances are surprisingly more than a bit cheesy instead of inspired. Jared Leto is truly unrecognizable as Paolo Gucci, the sort of pathetic joke of the family who wants so badly for everyone to like and respect him. The visual appearance of his Paolo is mindblowing and effective, but the cartoonish Italian accent he puts on comes across mostly comical, making his scenes in the film more silly than strong. Lady Gaga doesn’t fare much better, as her take on Patrizia is almost more annoying than sincere, and she rarely finds any real humanity with the character, making it hard for the audience to either sympathize or understand her feelings. I get the sense we were meant to find Patrizia a sort of sad and misunderstood personality that didn’t deserve her lover’s abandonment, but in the film you can instead see how this person would not be a desirable mate, and it totally makes sense she would ultimately be exonerated from the family. Oh, and her accent? It’s uh… not great.

There’s also the inclusion of Salma Hayek as a TV psychic Patrizia becomes friends with, and one who ultimately pushes her to make some pretty poor decisions. Hayek does fine with the role, but it never feels as effective as it could have. Faring better are Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino, classing up the joint with a bit of gravitas amidst this otherwise messy effort. Pacino is especially good, though it might be because his characterization of Aldo is as eccentric and silly as Pacino has been lately in real life, so it almost feels like he’s playing a slightly more flamboyant version of himself. Adam Driver is the true standout here, and the only performer than really appears to be taking the material seriously enough to make it work well. His reading with Maurizio is honest and effective. It’s interesting that the most reserved of the real life characters in the story is the one who feels the most sincere.

If you know the true story behind HOUSE OF GUCCI, you pretty much know where everything is headed, but the journey getting there really should play in a more interesting fashion. And I do think there’s an interesting way to present this material, but what’s delivered here is just not it. I wonder if some of that is the result oof sloppy editing – for example, the scene in the trailer below, where Gaga is drinking from that cup in the snow bunny outfit… isn’t even in the finished film. Ridley Scott does a fine job making it all look good and feel cinematic and glossy, but in the end the final result is just a bleak look at mostly horrible people who are only motivated by money. And maybe that’s part of the problem, in that there are no real heroes in this story, meaning there’s no one to root for. So we’re stuck with a story of vapid folks trying to screw each other over, performed inconsistently by big names who probably should have insisted on better material to work with. HOUSE OF GUCCI isn’t a terrible film, it’s just not a very good one, and after Gaga’s impressive acting debut in A STAR IS BORN, this feels like a poorly executed sophomore effort that likely won’t age well. And it’s not helping things that the two hour and 37 minute run time really drags more than it flows. Ridley Scott seems to be very hit and miss lately, and while THE LAST DUEL was a strong film that couldn’t find an audience, HOUSE OF GUCCI will likely put more butts in seats based on its cast alone, though I doubt they’ll leave feeling very satisfied.

HOUSE OF GUCCI opens in theaters November 24, 2021

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.