House of Gucci is filled with caricatured Italian performances and lots of smoke and espresso, but unfortunately has no memorable substance.
As many of you probably remember, earlier this year Ridley Scott was behind the medieval MeToo drama, The Last Duel, which was based on true events. But the director also has a second flick up his sleeve, the more modern biopic, House of Gucci. Although the core of the story in The Last Duel was strong, the film ended up being some unfocused mess that never really ended up knowing what it wanted or what its real story was. It's a bit of the same problem House of Gucci has. Because with an impressively long run time of 2 hours and 30 minutes, Scott's drama ends up being a flat, superficial and an unfocused waste of time. But hey, maybe I'm just a millennial who's been sitting on my phone the whole movie and would rather just whack on a superhero film?
House of Gucci has some absolutely amazing Oscar-worthy prerequisites. Eminent actors fill the cast; an interesting true story about the murder of the head of the Gucci family, Maurizio Gucci, is the core narrative; and there's an experienced Ridley Scott at the helm. So what went wrong then?
Let's start with the actors with Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino and Jared Leto at the centre. They are all excellent actors, but each is missing a key element considering they are in a film about one of the largest and leading Italian fashion empires? Yes, at times their accents are quite adequate and not distracting, but once again, Hollywood has made the decision to cast a host of stars, who are not Italian, to play an Italian family.
The worst of them is Jared Leto, who not only sounds like Super Mario, but actually also looks a lot like him in his bodysuit. It's on the verge of being hilarious half the time and that's not exactly the purpose of this drama, and it certainly becomes a distraction every time the caricatured portrayal by Leto is on screen.
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Gaga and co. actually do a perfectly adequate job, but I'm very surprised that actors with authentic Italian backgrounds were not cast to remove this problem entirely. After all, Hollywood is versatile enough to find such actors, and it makes me think that it's more of the typical big name actors pulling the strings, than the authentic experience itself.
If we disregard the not-so-authentic actors and look at the core of the film - the Gucci family - then another question arises. How to fill 2½ hours with Gucci drama? To begin with, one can build the film around Patrizia Reggiano/Gucci (Gaga) and her counterpart Maurizio Gucci (Driver) and how they met each other and built their marriage. That actually makes the film quite decent, and the first 45 minutes that are spent building the couple's romantic relationship are without a doubt the strongest part of the film.
Gaga's more eccentric and extroverted character in contrast to Driver's introverted socially-awkward character creates a nuanced and believable relationship in the couple's younger days, where it was all about love, sex and the family. The rest of the Gucci family is also introduced and built up here, and the film itself behaves more like a romantic drama, where the poor Patrizia has to fit into the rich and influential Gucci family, more than anything else. It actually works really well, but that's unfortunately why it's a shame that it all falls apart when the otherwise multidimensional and sympathetic character structure is thrown out the window to focus more on the Gucci brand itself and its development.
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The characters thus become bi-roles in their own stories, and the personal edge disappears and the whole thing becomes superficial and flat. Gaga goes from being a charmingly strong woman that you agree with, to becoming a jealous one-dimensional unvarnished villain, and one's sympathy is shifted to Driver's character. It might work as a good dynamic to have this sympathetic fluidity between the characters, but when Driver's Maurizio two seconds later becomes an asshole, there's actually not much that keeps me sitting in the cinema anymore.
The ending doesn't do the characters justice at all either, and although I have had sympathy for them in the past, House of Gucci ends up pushing the audience away with a decision that makes the audience lose interest. I can't tell whether it's because Scott is putting too many things in the film, as he shows both Patrizia and Maurizio's flourishing relationship and its decay, and Gucci's history in the 1970s until Maurizio's assassination in the 90s. The film thus lacks a focus, and especially a perspective, for who is the main character and through whose eyes do we experience the events? Yes, it's still unclear to me, and I do not know if it's Scott's intention or if there simply is not enough meat in the story itself to keep me invested in the Gucci family for 2 hours and 30 minutes. The Oscar-nominated, star-studded film is packed with unauthentic performances, and an disengaging story, which makes for another mediocre miss from director Ridley Scott.
6 / 10
A charming romantic story about Patrizia and Maurizio's relationship kicks the film off. Driver and Gaga have a great dynamic. Al Pacino is, as usual, fantastic.
Caricatured and hollow performances. Superficial and mediocre story,. Flat ending. Strange choice of pop songs for the soundtrack.