I wouldn’t necessarily say I totally bought into Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, but it’s a lively and garish world to play in for much of the duration. There were also moments where I just stared blankly at its bewildering tonal swings, not wanting to purchase this overblown product anymore. All the money and Oscar nominees and winners and well placed pop banger needle drops in the world can’t completely save it. Yet it’s hard to look away from.
We meet Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) in the late 1970s. A receptionist at her dad’s trucking business in Italy, she meets Maurizio (Adam Driver) at a nightspot where they awkwardly interact until she hears his last name. Gucci. Her demeanor changes and the awkward interaction turns to awkward flirtation. Maurizio is fickle when it comes to involving himself in the legendary upscale family fashion business. Patrizia is laser focused on inserting herself. Soon to be father-in-law Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), an ailing former screen star, doesn’t think she’s up to snuff. His brother Aldo (Al Pacino) takes to her and eventually the couple jet from their native country to New York armed with a 50% interest in the corporation.
From the moment back in the club where Patrizia meets her eventual hubby, she takes his surname and schemes with it. No one appears safe from her calculations. That includes Aldo and his – I guess we’ll say eccentric – son Paolo (Jared Leto). Unrecognizable under a balding wig, a fat suit, and a mound of makeup, Leto is alternately hilarious and dumbfounding. I struggle how to describe this performance. During the first hour, Leto seems right at home with the campy vibe. By the time the company intrigue grows more serious, Paolo’s appearances are equivalent to a highly insecure Muppet crashing a serious conversation. Pacino, surprisingly, is far more toned down (though he does get a chance to yell late in the proceedings).
Driver’s character (and in turn his performance as a whole) is more of a blank slate. There’s a bit of a Michael Corleone arc happening with Maurizio. He starts out wishing to be on the outside looking in but can’t escape all the trappings of the business and is soon consumed by it. Unlike Corleone, that shift seems sudden and without much context. And that’s where The Godfather comparisons will and should end.
Patrizia wants to be consumed it all. Gaga is terrific as the wily outsider who outfoxes her new clan. She’ll do anything to get ahead including consorting with a crime minded psychic (Salma Hayek). After impressing with her vulnerability in A Star Is Born, she’s a force of nature as she never stops maneuvering. That’s until she’s reminded that being born with the Gucci name has more advantages than marrying into it.
Gucci‘s final act gets bogged down in boardroom shenanigans that aren’t as frothy like the early portions that have a guilty pleasure soapy appeal. This will not be remembered highly atop Ridley Scott’s filmography and he made a far better picture (The Last Duel) that was out a month prior. This is more of a curiosity and a well-tailored one (expect for when Jared Leto lumbers in to do whatever the filmmakers somehow allowed him to do).
*** (out of four)