Just one short month and a handful of days ago director Ridley Scott released The Last Duel – A historical epic that told the same story from three different perspectives. A miss in the execution kept The Last Duel from achieving what Gladiator did back in 2000. Still entertaining to say the least and led by a talented ensemble of stars, Scott’s next film House of Gucci also features high talent and a methodical approach for retelling the history of one of the most seductive fashion brands – Gucci.
House of Gucci reunites Scott with lead actor Adam Driver who takes command as Maurizio Gucci and his standing at the head of the company – taking over from his father Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons) and Uncle Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino). Driver plays the role with a soft subtly in the way he holds himself. Body language and how Driver uses his expressions bring this fashion icon to life but what Maurizio lacked in instincts is made up by his wife Patrizia Reggiani (Stefani Germanotta pka Lady Gaga). Nicknamed “The Black Widow”, Patrizia manipulates the Gucci family including Aldo and his son Paolo Gucci (Jared Leto) to get the company in Maurizio’s hands and eventually being sentenced to prison for hiring a hitman to kill her ex-husband.
Scott has nothing more to prove as a director – look at his filmography and the diverse stories he’s brought to life. Almost every film he’s directed has the overly used word “epic” attached to it. House of Gucci is a melodramatic epic about deception, glamour, murder, and manipulation. Coming in at 157 minutes, Scott takes his sweet time establishing his characters and thus setting up the tragic fall of the House of Gucci. To put it into perspective The Last Duel is 4 minutes shorter than Gucci. Just when you think the film may end, the wheels keep turning with no end in sight.
But the criticism of the slow pace is nothing new to a Scott directed film. In fact, it holds Gucci back significantly. A slow pace and overly long running time cripple both of Scott’s efforts this year while the direction, production value and performances are spectacular. That’s the trade off – the more time we spend with the Gucci family, the more we can understand their habits and motivations. Much of the credit goes to the ensemble cast of past Oscar nominees and winners. But leading this talented cast is Driver and Germanotta.
There is no denying Lady Gaga has talent in her DNA but the performance she gives is astounding, showing her range as a performer. Her performance in A Star is Born is no fluke – her screen presence is hypnotizing even with a fake Italian accent.
Getting past the thick fake accent is easy enough as each actor and actress uses it well to their advantage. More about style and annunciation than authenticity the choice to use the accents adds more glamour to an already glamorous aesthetic. Leto’s accent is more daytime novella in his pronunciations.
House of Gucci is the clear Oscar bait film of the two Scott directed films this year though in a perfect world I would love to see both get equal consideration with the academy. From production design to costume, hair and makeup, each actor and actress transforms into their Gucci counterpart. But the most impressive transformation is Jared Leto – almost unrecognizable as Paolo. Leto, who has been known to go method in his approach to acting claims he snorted Arrabbiata sauce. Whether true or not, Leto has a history of his strange approach for taking on characters – his Joker for one.
House of Gucci falls short of the masterpiece the marketing promises. Certainly, ambitious in its vintage look, tones shift too often for a concrete identity to be established. Part historical drama and part daytime melodramatic soap opera, Gucci constantly switches between them.
Led by magnetic performances and chemistry by the ensemble cast namely Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, House of Gucci is captivating in its story of power, glamour, and manipulation. Money doesn’t solve everything, but it gives confidence to those who may not have the advantages that some may have born into that money. Pacing, a sense of identity and an overly long running time keep Gucci from being the achievement it promised it to be. Based on the 2001 book House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by author Sara Gay Forden the adapted film is more of a greek tragedy than a modern day crime film, House of Gucci weaves a tale that gives sympathy to the wealthy where before knowing the true story there may not be any.Technically brilliant, Cinematography, score and production all find a fluid rhythm with one another pairing well with the performances and Scott’s direction.
Written By: Becky Johnston & Roberto Bentivegna
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Music By: Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematography: Dariusz Wolski
Starring: Stefani Germanotta, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Al Pacino, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Irons
Release Date: November 24, 2021
Running Time: 2 Hours 38 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 61%
My Score: 3 out of 5
Based On: The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden