In just about every movie there’s a moment when someone could’ve simply said “no” and prevented the entire rest of the plot from happening. In The Lion King, for example, Simba could’ve just told his uncle Scar “no, I’m not going to the gorge to practice my roar with you. You’re a weirdo” and Mufasa would still be alive today. In House of Gucci that moment comes early for Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver). Patrizia follows Maurizio, the wealthy heir to the Gucci fortune whom she recently met at a party, into a library to try and woo him. The awkward Maurizio doesn’t pick up on her romantic hints until she eventually comes right out and says “you’re not going to ask me out on a date?”
Maurizio could’ve said no. In hindsight, he probably should have said no. The simplified movie version of this courtship lays bare that saying yes in this moment opens a floodgate of destructive forces that will tear apart Gucci as a family and as a company and eventually end Maurizio’s life. But Maurizio, drawn in by Patrizia’s Elizabeth Taylor-esque looks, does decide to open that floodgate. To say yes. And for the next 2 hours Lady Gaga, Adam Driver and an all star supporting cast of Hollywood’s who’s-who each say yes over and over again unleashing a deliciously soapy tale of family, lies, money, sex, and murder.
I’ve been excited for House of Gucci since it was first announced that Lady Gaga would be the lead 2 years ago as she was fresh off her Oscar nominated role in A Star Is Born. Adding previous Academy Award nominees/winners Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, and Salma Hayek to the project directed by Ridley Scott has made it a mainstay on Oscar contenders list all year long. Does it live up to the hype?
In short: House of Gucci is imperfect but it’s everything I hoped it would be. The story of Patrizia, Maurizio, and the Gucci family is deliciously messy and movie-ready. The glitz, glamour and fashion of it all will leave you wanting to dress like at least one of the characters here. But the performances are where the movie really shines. Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Salma Hayek, and Jeremy Irons all give incredible performances and Jared Leto is as committed and funny as ever, love him or hate him. But Lady Gaga gives an otherworldly performance that cements her as my Best Actress front runner for now, and one of the most talented people working in entertainment today.
House of Gucci isn’t going to be for everyone, and it’s not intended to be. The film clocks in with a run time of a little over two and a half hours and focuses on very eccentric, very wealthy people who are all differing levels of jerk bag. But it earns that runtime by telling a fantastic story that spans decades and features as many twists, turns, and backstabs as The Godfather. In fact, between the Italian accents, prison sentences, family infighting, murder and watching Jared Leto play a fashionable Fredo Corleone there are more Godfather parallels than you might think.
This movie likely won’t be as timeless as that one, but Gaga’s performance feels like an instant classic. A lot has been made of Gaga’s accent, love it or hate it, but the brilliance of the performance goes much deeper than that. When we first meet Patrizia she’s a sexy woman working for her dad’s trucking company, being hit on by the dusty drivers outside. She’s friendly and loves the attention, but you can tell from the way she dresses and walks that she’s clearly meant for more than this. When Patrizia meets Maurizio and realizes he’s a Gucci you can see the dollar signs in her eyes, and when she meets his disapproving father you can tell she’s not used to the luxury she now finds herself in.
She eventually fits right in with the ruthless family, but you can always see her genuine love for Maurizio and her daughter come through at all times. And when she eventually loses her cool and her family, she displays an intoxicating combination of crazy and heartbroken that’s incredible to watch.
We’ve come to expect brilliance from Adam Driver and his Maurizio Gucci delivers with his trademark brand of quiet cool with anger bubbling beneath the surface. Jared Leto’s very committed performance as Paolo Gucci (Maurizio’s idiot cousin) feels out of place at first, being the obvious comic relief character in a movie that hadn’t been very funny to that point, but ultimately morphing into a hilarious and tragic figure that works well. Jeremy Irons is his usually impressive self as Rodolfo Gucci (Maurizio’s father). And Al Pacino (Aldo Gucci, Maurizio’s uncle) and Salma Hayek (Patrizia’s personal fortune teller) each give their best performances in years and I could see any of the cast possibly getting Oscar nominations, but Gaga stands out above all to separate herself as more than just a pretty good actress for a singer. She’s one of the best actresses in the industry right now.
As far as negatives for the movie, there aren’t many for me. As previously mentioned, Jared Leto feels a bit out of place at times but ultimately that resolved itself in my opinion. The movie can feel long if you have a short attention span for movies, but I feel that the story earned that runtime. I’ve heard people criticize the film by saying things like “every actor feels like they’re in a different movie” but to me the eccentric, larger than life personalities of each family member feels more realistic than them all being the same.
It’s all personal preference. But if you came to House of Gucci looking for a big, messy, and extremely fashionable true story that feels stranger than fiction the film delivers in spades. And Lady Gaga’s sexy crazy cool Patrizia is worth the price of admission all by herself.
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