House of Gucci begins with a shot of a gun-wielding man approaching a lead character. Before we understand what happens, the screenplay shifts to a few years prior. You know right off the bat that this story will lead up to this ill-fated opening moment. Considering that this Ridley Scott film is based on the real-life story about the decorated family behind the popular Italian fashion brand Gucci, the script is intended to also cater to those people who, like myself, aren’t exactly familiar with the Gucci story. “I want to see how this story goes,” as a character says. However, the said story is rather charmless and unsurprising.
Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), a 20-something woman from a middle-class Italian family has her eyes set on Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), the heir to his father, Rodolfo Gucci’s (Jeremy Irons) fashion empire. Love blooms, but Rudolfo is apprehensive of Patrizia’s intentions. An argument ensues between father and son, and Maurizio leaves everything behind for lady love. They get married, and we now learn that Rodolfo may not be wrong about his opinion on Patrizia. She pushes her husband to meet his uncle Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino), to dethrone Rudolfo. A tale of love, deceit and feud begins.
After Aldo’s entrance, the film turns into an Al Pacino show for a while. The veteran makes you really feel for his character and his downfalls. He makes you laugh too, even if he isn’t the comic relief in this film. That job is assigned to Jared Leto, who plays Paolo Gucci, Aldo’s wastrel son who double-crosses his father, and shows a taste for unusual dialogue in unusual circumstances. When he ends up losing everything and, in the process, sends his father to prison, Paolo, in his heavy Italian accent, quips, “Never confuse s*** with choco-lato. They look the same, but they taste very different.”
Every character in the film seems intriguing on paper, even if not on screen. The men in the film, Aldo in particular, break their composure in seconds. They have fragile egos, and it just takes one dialogue to change them from pleasant men to threatening characters. A great addition to the story is the character of Pina Auriemma (Salma Hayek), a tarot card-reading soothsayer, who becomes Patrizia’s advisor and confidante. Though the character is sadly underutilised, she proves to be useful for Patrizia, especially when it comes to pivotal moments when she has to take dangerous decisions that can drastically change the narrative.
Though all these characters play their part, it’s Patricia who owns House of Gucci, which is essentially a story about this big-hearted woman’s quest to ascend to the top. In a world that refuses to accept her, Patrizia must also fight for her love and family. The ferocity of Gaga keeps you invested in some mediocre portions. Paola Franchi (Camille Cottin) enters the film from nowhere and begins to threaten Patrizia’s marital life. She has to confront her in a way that doesn’t spoil her already sinking equation with her husband. Gaga manages a dialogue exchange with a stare that seems to shoot lasers.
The same charisma in performance cannot be attributed to Driver, playing Maurizio. Perhaps it’s because he is never really given a moment to shine, and you never truly get a glimpse into his character.
The exquisite production design makes this world feel rather dreamlike for a commoner. And yet, the great performances and such great production design get lost in this highly predictable, unengaging story. It’s strange coming from Ridley Scott, whose recent film, The Last Duel, had some terrific writing. There is a powerful moment—again on paper—when Patrizia insists on being called ‘Signora Gucci’ in court. It should have been a cracker of a moment, but it just makes you feel for Gaga.
|Movie: House of Gucci
Cast: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jared Leto
Director: Ridley Scott