HOUSE OF GUCCI

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Ridley Scott

Stars: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek, Jack Huston, Reeve Carney, Camille Cottin.

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Trashy melodrama about the downfall of the luxury fashion house of Gucci.  

In March 1995 Maurizio Gucci, the CEO of the famous fashion house, was shot dead on the steps outside his Milan office by a couple of assassins hired by his estranged wife and her tv psychic and spiritual advisor. Prolific filmmaker Ridley Scott gives us a detailed forensic examination of the events leading up to this murder in this lurid soap opera that fails to really capitalise on so many fascinating elements – lust, greed, power, ambition, dysfunctional family dynamics. This is his second film to hit cinemas this year following the historical drama The Last Duel.  

The film has been written by Becky Johnson (The Prince Of Tides, etc) and debut feature writer Roberto Bentivegna and is based on the 2001 nonfiction book The House Of Gucci: A sensational Story Of Murder, Madness, Glamour And Greed, which was written by Sara Gay Forden. Spanning nearly two decades, this film adaptation takes some liberties with the facts, but it certainly contains plenty of lurid elements that make this something of a guilty pleasure.  

Maurizio Gucci (played here by Adam Driver) was the introverted son of Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons) who is studying to become a lawyer. But at a party he meets Patrizia Reggiani, the strong-willed daughter of a man who operates a small trucking company in Milan. She aggressively pursues Maurizio, and despite the warnings of his father, who is distrusting of her working-class roots, that she is only after his money, he marries her. Rodolfo cuts him off from the family business.  

But the scheming and manipulative Patrizia soon works her charms on Maurizio’s uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) and his feeble-minded son Paolo (an unrecogniseable Jared Leto buried under layers of prosthetic makeup), a wannabe fashion designer with bad taste in clothing, and begins to ingratiate herself and Maurizio back into the family fold. Patrizia begins to work at gaining a controlling interest in the business and installing Maurizo at the head of the Gucci business despite his obvious lack of ambition and drive. She schemes to have Aldo arrested on tax evasion charges and discredits Paolo. Maurizio and Patrizia flee Italy before the police can arrest him on fraud charges and set up house in Switzerland.  

Once having been ensconced as the CEO of the family business Maurizio soon tires of Patrizia’s machinations and sets out to divorce her. He is no businessman though and his mismanagement of the company soon enables an overseas investment firm to move in and take over the company. 

There’s plenty of lurid details in this high gloss soap opera, and there are more intrigues and backstabbing here than in a dozen episodes of Dynasty. But there is so much to digest here that maybe the material would be better served through a miniseries. However, the slightly camp approach from Scott detracts from the seriousness and dark intent of the story. It is overlong and could have done with some tightening up in the editing room. 

Nonetheless, this is a sumptuous looking production, with superb production design from Arthur Max that captures the opulent and lavish lifestyle of the Gucci family, from the interiors of the mansions and high-end shops to the ski chalets of Switzerland to the boardrooms and dining rooms. The costumes from Oscar winner Janty Yates (Gladiator, etc) are also quite stunning. The film has been beautifully shot by regular cinematographer Dariusz Wolski who gives the material a suitably glossy surface. 

Scott has assembled a stellar ensemble cast to bring to life these characters, although their Italian accents are sometimes a bit fruity and their shameless scenery chewing emphasises the camp nature of the material. Singer Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born, etc) dominates the film with a superb performance as the ambitious, predatory and determined Patrizia; she is cold and calculating and we can clearly see the range of emotions and inner thoughts play out on her face and in her eyes. Her performance here shows that her work in A Star Is Born was no fluke. Pacino hams it up a little as Aldo, while Leto’s performance is something of a caricature and full of affectations and mannerisms, but their interactions bring some much-needed comic energy to proceedings. Driver is more sympathetic as Maurizio a quiet man who initially finds himself overwhelmed by events, but who slowly grows in strength and confidence. Irons brings a touch of dignity to his role as the aging and ailing Rodolfo. Salma Hayek brings a nicely enigmatic quality to her role as the dodgy clairvoyant Pina. 

★★★ 

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