‘House of Gucci’ Is a High-Class Soap Opera Masquerading as a Prestige Film
For its first 40 minutes (of a 2:38 running time), Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci is full of promise.
Between the working-class transportation office manager Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and the awkward Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), son of Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons), the co-owner of the famous fashion brand; between the actors engaged in all types of Italian accents (from not bad to truly horrific); and between Scott and the audience.
We’re teased that something delicious and wicked is about to transpire, and we sign on for the filthy family drama that shows us that rich people — and those who aspire to wealth — are just as fucked up as the rest of us.
And then? Well, the film basically withers as you watch it.
From every predicable turn of events to a cadre of performances that are less than the sum of their parts (with one broad, and controversial, exception), House of Gucci is an act of attrition.
Gaga, resplendent in A Star Is Born, is badly miscast here. It’s not simply her tone-deaf accent — closer to Russian than Italian — that does her in, but the conception of the role. Patrizia is a gold-digger from the minute her and Maurizio meet-cute at a friend of a friend’s birthday party. Everyone can see it except Maurizio.
When Maurizio’s father, a prideful and slimy Irons, calls it out, he’s set up to be the bad guy trying to thwart the young lovers. But he’s right, and Maurizio’s pig-headedness dooms him (and Driver’s performance) from the start.
From there on, Gaga has nothing to deliver but one-note villainy. An hour in, I kept asking myself of her performance: Is that all there is? Since you never believe that she loves Maurizio, there’s not much at stake except the long con of a leech bloodletting her mark.
Lady Gaga has such audience good will that you root for her anyway, and she’s lovely in the early sections (her and Driver have an easy chemistry), but it goes nowhere fast. By the time of Patrizia’s plotting with (and against) family buffoon Paolo Gucci (Jared Leto, unrecognizable under prosthetics) or of her hiring a hitman to take out her philandering husband, the film has devolved into a third-rate episode of a bad ’80s serial — House of Dynasty or House of Dallas, though either of those would be more fun and, frankly, better acted.
The film is such a cartoon that it’s strange to hear grousing about how these Italians are nothing more than stereotypes. The bigger complaint is that they’re not human, though Leto comes closest to infusing Paolo with, at the very least, a soul. He’s an idiot, but a lyrical one. Sheltered his entire life by an overprotective (and stingy) father (Al Pacino), Paolo has convinced himself that he’s a misunderstood genius — an artist too good for the family business — instead of the mediocrity he, on some level, knows that he is. There’s melancholy in Leto’s performance, and regret. Of all the busy, whirlwind plotting and deception going on within the house of Gucci, Leto (and, through the bluster, Pacino) are the only two performers who seem like they could be, you know, family.
House of Gucci would be much better if Scott were not such a formally gifted director. His measured, classic approach to filmmaking does a disservice to the potboiler material. He’s a respectful, respectable director telling a story that requires the hand of a bone dry and disgraceful satirist.