When Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), an outsider who rose from humble beginnings, marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel the family legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately… murder. Gucci was a family business, and House of Gucci certainly presents said “family” as one akin to the Corleone’s.
In the world of fashion, it is not unusual to take two different styles or textures of material and combine them to create something bold and new. Here, Ridley Scott is attempting to blend the crime drama genre with a touch of melodrama, covered in sequins and glitter – think The Godfather meets Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story.
If we are to continue the ‘fashion elements as film genres’ analogy, then you may think of the crime drama as a quality pair of jeans. The melodramatic soap opera, a flashy denim jacket. Individually they are a familiar, comfortable fit. Put them together, and what do you have? Double denim. In other words, a crime against fashion!
For the most part, the film is presented as Patrizia’s rags to riches story, one that involves scheming, blackmail and murder only incidentally. Lady Gaga, on screen just as she is on stage, is a force of nature. She is committed wholeheartedly to her role Patrizia, a fact that is clear as day from the moment she sashays into frame, then begins touch typing whilst holding a lit cigarette in her hand. She is a Femme Fatale in Haute Couture.
It’s therefore pretty jarring when she suddenly disappears from the plot (for an extended period of time, too) bang in the middle of House of Gucci’s second act. This could perhaps have worked if the story had been told as a limited series, but here it’s entirely a misstep. By switching the narrative focus to Maurizio Gucci’s (Adam Driver) solidification of power, the film leaves a void; not the void of power within Gucci, mind, but a void of personality.
It’s nothing against Driver as an actor! But he is the straight man in a sea of gaudy, over-the-top performances – aside for an intense sex scene where he momentarily reverts to his character from Girls – and he should never have been left to carry it all on his own.
As for the other actor’s turns on the catwalk, on the catwalk yeah, the other actor’s turns on the catwalk? Jeremy Irons, for one, seems to believe he is in a Regency costume drama dying of consumption. Meanwhile, just when he thought he was out, Al Pacino has been pulled back into The Godfather mode, wildly overacting as the head of the family Aldo Gucci.
Oh, and there is Jared Leto. Where to begin? Well, one can imagine that Leto is sending rotten peaches and turtle carcasses to Chris Pratt, having missed out on the voice of Mario in the upcoming animated Super Mario Bros movie… Leto’s turn will be the Oscar equivalent of the blue dress/gold dress. Some will herald his performance as a masterpiece, while others will scratch their heads in confusion and wonder if they are seeing the same thing as everyone else.
Much like Leto’s performance, House of Gucci is likely to polarise audiences. It is glamourous and gaudy but also tedious and tiresome and, for what is supposed to be a compelling crime story, the result is a confusing mess. One where the biggest crime is not murder… but being boring.
House of Gucci is in cinemas from November 26th.