“Father, Son, and House of Gucci.” This line is ad-libbed by none other than Lady Gaga in her stand-out yet indistinguishable performance as the passionate and mythical Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci. That Scott was able to release this melodrama on the heels of medieval drama The Last Duel might be pure lunacy or Sagittarius excellence.
In any case, House of Gucci is dominated by its star, where Gaga so deeply commits to her portrayal of the force pivoting the historical fashion brand to a new era that every other performance that cannot match her fades into the background. Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) grants her this charisma when he meets his “Elizabeth Taylor” in a club, the only Cinderellan place where an heir to fashion fortune and the daughter of a truck company owner could meet. Maurizio quickly wins hearts as he trips over his words and fumbles on the dancefloor; a gentle awkwardness that shys from Partizia’s forwardness.
But Lady Driver are a better match than Gaga detractors would like to admit. As the Gucci and movie mantra states, family is stronger together than it is apart. Patrizia and Maurizio begin a budding romance and assert their love for each other in the face of all obstacles, the main one being Maurizio’s father and Gucci stakeholder Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons). In the most awkward proposal ever, Maurizio drags his belongings over to the Reggianis after his father cuts him out of his life because of his love, and asks for Patrizia’s hand in marriage along with a job. Maybe honesty is the best policy, as a gorgeous wedding and a spread of early memories between the couple plays across the screen, it seems that their union is impervious to attack.
Rodolfo’s time on the screen seems to drag beyond his apprehensions — and frankly, Gaga’s Italian accent is more believable than Irons’ — so the warning the Gucci patriarch gives his son about Patrizia being in for the family fortune comes and goes without much of a thought. He gets sick and passes away from a foreshadowed illness, which puts Maurizio in a position to take over his father’s share of the family business.
Patrizia is all for this, and Gaga tempers this ambition with what she believed to be Patrizia’s true love for Maurizio, a bond deeper than the tabloids and second-hand accounts of her supposed wretchedness. She finds her ego matched in Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino), Maurizio’s uncle and the other 50% stakeholder of the brand. Pacino settles into this jovial overseer role perfectly, a needed relief from the clownish portrayal of his black-sheep son Paolo by Jared Leto, who seems to think that House of Gucci is actually a biopic just about his character.
Aldo ignores any attempts, but especially those from his son, to change the direction of Gucci’s brand, but teams up with Patrizia in order to get Maurizio to New York and in the top spot alongside his uncle. When the transition happens, the rifts between old and young and wealth and family start to emerge. Patrizia nudges her husband to gain full controlling power over the company by using Paolo’s idiocy to their advantage and leveraging Aldo’s tax evasion against him. But when the consequences of their actions unfold, and the family “bond,” though held by strings in the first place, is broken, Maurizio doesn’t look inward. Instead, he blames the outsider, Patrizia, as a corrosive and unmitigable force as damaging as the counterfeit bag business. She has the look, but not the heart.
Patrizia seems unaware of Maurizio’s distancing until the very end of their romance, when tax authorities send the latter fleeing to San Moritz and into the arms of an old friend, Paola (Camille Cottin). Every moment on does Maurizio take the opportunity to ostracize his wife, though he can try to grab as much attention as he likes in those form-fitting knit sweaters, the strength of his performance diminishes in concert with his relationship with Patrizia.
Gaga’s performance as she grieves her lost love tends to dance in the campier spectrum of the film’s tone. She spends too much time plotting Maurizio’s demise in mud baths with her psychic guide Pina (Salma Hayek), who, like Irons, comes and goes without much thought. What Patrizia does not realize is that Maurizio’s spending and his deference to his father’s old “friends” is already sending him under, a plot point that bolster’s Gaga’s commitment to Patrizia’s role as a supporter rather than manipulator. It’s already too late for Maurizio to hold on to everything he gained, and Patrizia has him dead on the ground as the brand is swallowed and the family is erased.
For those that did not know the story, the two and a half hours go by relatively quickly with the dismantling of the family brand’s core, but that has nothing to do with the plot itself. Gaga, Driver, and Pacino’s performances especially shine through the inconsistency of the story’s desires. It tries its hand at summoning the seriousness of Devil In A Blue Dress at the same time as its attempts of 9 to 5 one-liners, but never finds a balance. It’s only a historical film if you treat using Blondie’s music and dressing Paolo almost exclusively in neon ski jackets as sufficient for this description, and there is no commentary on what force Patrizia really was on the brand save for her almost corny assertion in court that she is not a Reggiani, only a Gucci.
In total, House of Gucci is nothing less than entertaining, something you can really enjoy if you leave your critical hat at the door and just have fun with it.