House of Gucci is Ridley Scott’s second film of 2021. Hopefully this one goes better for him at the box office than The Last Duel! Read on for my thoughts…
House of Gucci is the true story of the family which began a fashion empire. It’s an epic tale, spanning 20 years and features legal scandals, family infighting, depravity, toxicity, style, and a sprinkle of love to top it off. The story begins in Italy, late 1970s. Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) works for her father’s trucking business but has far loftier ambitions. One night, while partying with her friends, Patrizia makes the acquaintance of one Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver)– heir to the Gucci fortune.
He’s handsome yet shy; a stark contrast to Patrizia’s confidence and outgoing nature. But they have a spark (although Patrizia must work to help ignite it). Unfortunately for Maurizio, his father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) doesn’t approve of the match and they become estranged. Patrizia makes it her mission to help Maurizio reconcile with his family, though he doesn’t have much interest in doing so. And that’s where the meat of the plot begins…
House of Gucci weaves an emotionally complex story which had me constantly questioning its characters motivations– notably those of Patrizia Reggiani (although she’d far prefer to be remembered as a Gucci). She spends most of the movie forcing Maurizio into awkward situations which improve their power at the family’s expense. But sometimes it’s tough to tell whether her choices were made out of love or greed.
It’s easy to argue that Patrizia’s actions in this movie all but caused the Gucci family to crumble. If they’d never brought her into their lives, where might they be? Well, the movie also makes you wonder how long these people would have continued on their course unimpeded. They were all apt to stupid decision making long before Reggiani came into the picture. She just shone a light on their problems.
I found it fascinating how nuanced Patrizia’s story came across. It would have been easy to paint her as a straight up villain (as history seems to have done) but there’s enough evidence to suggest she had good intentions too. I gather her choices weren’t black and white; made deceitfully or with candor. She seems to have had a genuine love for Maurizio and wanted to see him grow as a person before realizing his family stood in his way, yet she also had a craving for power and took advantage of every opportunity she had to get it. She was somehow deceitful without ever having to lie.
Lady Gaga was fantastic in House of Gucci! Much of this character is communicated through her expressions. I probably found out more about her watching her eyes and body language than listening to her dialogue. I wanted to know what her character was thinking at all times. Gaga simultaneously seems like a spoiled rich girl and a dangerous person you don’t want to cross.
Maurizio’s story wasn’t quite so complex as Patrizia’s but I enjoyed his perspective too. Maurizio was always different than his family– kinder and less consumed with success. But he slowly becomes more like them the more he’s pushed into their sphere– a little for better but mostly for worse. You can only blame him so much though seeing as everyone he surrounds himself is a negative influence. Nobody in Maurizio’s life wants him to be true to himself. They all want to mold him in their image.
Adam Driver, like Lady Gaga, communicates much without speaking. Although his communication is more sinister in a way because he doesn’t change as much outwardly, even when his actions become wildly at odds with the man we’ve come to know.
House of Gucci’s toxic family dynamic was its most fascinating element. Seeing these rich jerks screw each other over brought me amusement. But as much as we (and the film) might wanna say “boo hoo on your upper class problems”, HoG develops its supporting cast well enough for them to rise slightly above caricatures, which makes us sympathize to an extent.
Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) is the cold-blooded and persistently ill father of Maurizio. His frankness was actually brutal! I don’t know why it caught me so off guard… Jeremy Irons doesn’t get a lot to do in the film but his part is memorable enough.
Al Pacino plays Aldo Gucci– the film’s arguable antagonist for the first half. Pacino is in fine form here as the Gucci family’s charming yet shady patriarch. He represents the last vestige of the Gucci family as it was, and is seen as a hurdle to Gucci’s prosperity. His plotline hammers home the idea that the Gucci family was heading for trouble long before Patrizia entered their lives.
Jared Leto disappears in his role as Paulo Gucci. And I almost mean that literally, because Leto’s under such thick makeup I couldn’t tell it was him! The man goes BIG here. Like, bigger than Al Pacino (and that’s saying something). Leto’s performance is sure to inspire both disdainful eye-rolling and assertions that he’s the best part of HoG. I leaned towards the former first, then just went with it. Behind all the pomp, Paulo’s sad eyes tell the story of a man who, for all his privileges, was never happy. I just pitied the guy.
One detail I appreciated was that Maurizio and Patrizia never seemed to live in the same home twice. I got the impression they owned almost all their residencies though, which speaks to how rich this family was. One notable scene features Maurizio ride a motorbike away from a mansion he owns, only to cross borders into another country and finish his journey at another mansion. If that doesn’t scream of excess…
Speaking of the luxuries: I’d be surprised if HoG wasn’t nominated for hair, makeup and costuming awards. Everyone looks gorgeous! I’m now enticed to buy Gucci products. Then again– I’m strapped for cash, so maybe not…
Looking back over my notes I see I haven’t mentioned many of the film’s technical aspects. That’s because I’m still talking about HoG’s best qualities and the film-making ranged from serviceable to really good. Ridley Scott is no amateur. But I didn’t like EVERYTHING, so let’s break those thoughts down further:
My biggest complaint for House of Gucci: it was too long. The story was interesting but its plot stretched thin towards the end. And that’s a shame because some of the biggest dramatic payoffs came at the end, yet I wasn’t so invested by the time they arrived.
Also– most of the humour didn’t land for me. Some jokes were funny for sure. Though I didn’t laugh as much as the movie wanted me to (HoG isn’t a comedy though, so take this note in perspective).
The colour grading also felt wrong. Everything seemed too washed out for a film about fashion. Though, thinking back to my viewing experience, the tint of each decade seems to mirror how photograph technologies looked back then. Like, most of my family photos from the 1970s have the same yellowish focus as the 1970s did in House of Gucci, and I could see a similar correlation with other decades. I dunno if this was Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski’s intention but, if it was, I don’t understand what importance it lent to this particular story.
House of Gucci left me in awe that these people really existed and lived this way (both in their lavishness and cruelty to one another). Their story was certainly worthy of a cinematic adaptation! It’s a shining example of film’s power to teach me of people and times and places which I might never have discovered otherwise.
HoG is not quite “Gucci”, as kids a few years my junior might say, but it’s Pretty darn good.
Got any good recommendations for fashion-focused melodramas? What did you think of House of Gucci? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!
Till next time,