What is it about the gratuitously privileged that we find so appealing and absorbing? Maybe it’s the rare insight behind faces worth millions. Or is it because luxury and opulence, fast cars and airy mansions, just look great on a big screen?
Ridley Scott tests those limits with a lot of garish fun in his latest film House of Gucci. With screenwriters Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna, he lavishly examines the downfall of the Gucci family and the assassination of its heir Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), as ordered by his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) in 1995.
But despite the murder being a key hook – arguably the reason why people will pay to see the film (that and Gaga) – House of Gucci emphasises the family. Not only in the classic clashes between love and business, but the exuberant personalities the Guccis like to flaunt.
Adam Driver and Lady Gaga as Maurizio Gucci and Patrizia Reggiani. Photo: EPK/MGM
You enjoy the campy company of these ridiculous people. Many of them strut, waddle or flounce like cartoon characters, deserving sitcom applause every time they enter a shot. Adding to the absurdity, they all speak English with funny Italian accents. Jared Leto’s latest jaw-breaking transformation into Paolo Gucci, in particular, occasionally resembles a squealy and spoiled version of Kramer from Seinfeld. Is the whole movie a satire? Ostensibly not, but you can read between the lines.
That’s not to say the performances are two-dimensional. The meet-cute of Maurizio and Patrizia is a wonderfully crafted scene, with Driver and Gaga sparkling with instant if awkward chemistry in a Milanese nightclub. At this point in 1978, Patrizia works at her father’s trucking company and Maurizio is disenchanted with the Gucci empire because of his obstinate father Rodolfo, played by a gloriously mean and pompous Jeremy Irons.
They attract each other in their differences: he’s upper-class, she’s more lowly; he’s a well-read introvert, she’s an unabashed people-pleaser and doesn’t know her Picasso from her Klimt. More importantly: they’re both intensely likeable… until money gets involved.
An always gripping Al Pacino rocks up as Aldo Gucci, uncle and a kind of surrogate father to Maurizio. At Patrizia’s urging, Aldo welcomes his nephew back into the family despite the latter’s earlier abdication. Patrizia starts to rather enjoy being part of the Gucci clan, despite her constant alienation as an outsider and as a woman. It’s remarkable that despite a large percentage of the brand being devoted to women’s products, there are no women at the top.
But Scott is careful not to shape House of Gucci into an over-sympathetic portrait of a murderer. He never justifies Reggiani's actions, but attempts to explain them. Gaga accommodates her performance well: creating an unforgettable antihero that’s likeable and despicable, and never, ever boring.
Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci. Photo: EPK/MGM
Everything’s so lush and lavish – bathed in the same sandy, Italian light of Scott’s other mega-business true-crime drama All the Money in the World (both shot by Dariusz Wolski). It’s easy to smile through the over-indulgent two-and-a-half hours, and to be swallowed by these affluent lives. Equally, like eating a chocolate cake with the richest icing, you’re left walking home in pain. Their wealth is delicious and sickening at once.
But all of this contributes to a funny, messy, engaging whole that easily eats through its hours. With an acerbic and entertaining script bolstered by a starry ensemble at the top of their games, House of Gucci is the grandest of grandiose soap operas.
House of Gucci will be in UK cinemas on Friday 26 November
|House of Gucci review
26 Nov 21 – 26 Nov 22, IN CINEMAS
|£determined by cinemas
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