Length: 158 minutes
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Becky Johnston, Roberto Bentivegna
Cast: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Jared Leto
Singapore - 30 December 2021 (Sneaks from 24-26 December)
Malaysia - 3 February 2022
3.5 out of 5 stars
I really liked Ridley Scott's The Last Duel, which showed in cinemas just two months before the director's latest film, House Of Gucci, is due to hit theatres too.
However, as the muddled House Of Gucci demonstrates, the acclaimed filmmaker's talent is tempered by the skill of his collaborators.
The Last Duel, written by its stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as well as Nicole Holofcener, is an acutely socially relevant study of sexism that masterfully employed the Rashomon device of unreliable narrators.
On the other hand, House Of Gucci, written by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna, a true-crime period drama centred around the family that founded the luxury fashion house, lacks a compelling story although its A-list cast turns in terrific performances.
This A-list cast includes Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiano, who marries into the Gucci family as the wife of Maurizio Gucci.
Maurizio, played by Adam Driver, is the son of Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons), who together with his brother Aldo (Al Pacino) took over the reins of Gucci from their father Guccio, the company's founder. (Guccio Gucci isn't in the movie on account of him having died before the time period that the movie is set in, the '80s and '90s.)
Jared Leto rounds off the main cast as Paolo Gucci, the designer-wannabe son of Aldo Gucci. (Leto's hilarious performance is singularly the best thing in the movie, in my opinion. More on that later.)
Salma Hayek's also in there as Patrizia's psychic adviser, Pina, who helps her to hire the hitman who shoots Maurizio dead, but it's a very small role.
Gaga wears a parade of fabulous Gucci outfits in the movie, but the fashion isn't its focus.
The film is framed around the family feuds leading up to the sensational real-life crime mentioned: Patrizio was jailed for hiring a killer to murder her husband Maurizio, who was shot by the assassin outside his office in 1995. Italian media at that time dubbed Patrizia the "Black Widow".
I called House Of Gucci a true-crime period drama above. In truth, the film could not decide whether it wanted to be a comedy, a satire, or a drama.
Ridley Scott himself said in an interview, "The story, in a funny kind of way, it's a satire. And therefore, satire is really a posh way of saying it's a comedy. And I think a lot of it is comedic. Certainly for the first two acts".
So: is it a satire or not? Did the "satire" become something else in the third act of the film? If so, what was that? Come on, Mr Scott: you couldn't describe your own movie in a more definitive way?
To be fair, it truly is unclear what the movie wants to be or wants to say. It vacillates between melodrama and sketch comedy without providing insight into the characters that couldn't be gleaned from news reports about the family feuds and murder trial.
Lacklustre writing aside, the performances were stellar, if you're willing to discount the idea that they're in-depth or accurate reflections of the real-life people portrayed.
Gaga believably portrayed a character driven by ambition and love but frustrated in both. Patrizia is clearly positioned as the film's central character, and the film follows her schemes and manipulations as she seeks to gain more and more control over the Gucci empire, through her husband who is the natural heir of the company.
It is suggested that she is various things over the course of the movie but most of those threads were not followed up on satisfactorily. While she was portrayed as genuinely loving of her husband, was she also motivated by greed and ambition, manipulating Maurizio for money and power? Was she a talented businesswoman in her own right who was shut out of the family business because of her outsider status? She could have been all these things, of course, but the script often hints at these character traits without exploring them.
Adam Driver, while a great actor, played more of a supporting role to Gaga here, and understandably so, giving up the spotlight to her.
The comedy is great, I will give you that, mostly coming from Jared Leto and Al Pacino as the bumbling son and frustrated father to said bumbling son.
Leto, practically unrecognisable as the bald, fat and moustachioed Paolo Gucci, hammed it up to the sky with a hyperbolically hilarious interpretation of Paolo Gucci. (It had to be an interpretation, because not much was known to the public about the real Paolo, although he was known to be rather flamboyant.)
I wish Leto had more screen time, because although the dramatic component of the film wasn't that satisfactory, at least Leto had me howling in laughter.
I'll give you just one line of Leto's for a taste of the genius absurdity of his character: "Never mistake shit for chocolate. They may look the same, but they taste very different. Trust me, I know."
Comedic turns aside, if you stepped back and thought about what happened in real life, it is a dark and tragic real-life story for which comedy was a strange way to treat it.
Do I care about the movie's faithfulness to the real events, though? Not really. Ultimately, the film didn't provide much food for thought besides being a re-enactment of the family drama of a bunch of rich people who made bags and clothes for other rich people.
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