Ridley Scott is a hard working 80-something, not only does he have two films out this year, he has them out mere weeks apart, both hoping for a shot at Academy Awards, and is prepping his next historical epic to begin in January. After his near three hour historical rape drama The Last Duel failed to do much at the box office (millennials possibly to blame), his new film true-crime drama House of Gucci looks to be a more mainstream outing.
Charting the marriage of third generation Gucci heir Maurizio Gucci to Patrizia Reggiani and the crumbling of the Gucci empire that she may or may not have orchestrated.
Scott has always been a director interested in three core issues: why we are here and who made us, the mythic quality of violence and the corruption of money. House of Gucci is firmly in the third count, charting the the Gucci family as they fight amongst themselves to gain control over a company that could other become iconic or fall into the waste-bins of history.
The tone varies wildly, it’s campy then self serious, then campy again. Early scene of Maurizio and Patrizia’s courtship is full of tacky clothes and sex scenes cut to Italian opera, fast cars and disco hits. Lady Gaga and Adam Driver both get the measure of their roles. At times Gaga is playing Patrizia like she’s Lady MacBeth, other times like a Real Housewife of Milan, Driver on the other hand plays Maurizio like the ultimate geek, big glasses, awful hair. His corruption is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film. His desire not to become a “Gucci” is ultimately his undoing, it makes sense that his uncle in played by Al Pacino, as Maurizio per the film is following the Michael Corleone path of becoming the worst of them.
Every actor is performing in a different film to each other. Gaga is gouache and loud as if she’s in an episode of Dallas, so much so you half expect Larry Hagman to saunter in with a stetson. Driver is in an introspective drama about greed. Jared Leto as fat, balding Paolo Gucci appears to be playing Gino D’Acampo, while Jeremy Irons as Driver’s father Rodolfo is on audition to play Dracula. Al Pacino just about gets away with playing camp, garrulous Aldo because no one wears a pair of glasses like Pacino.
While the performances war for dominance and the tone goes from Dallas to drama, Scott throws everything at the screen. This is perhaps his most enjoyably fluffy film since The Martian even if the premise sounds like a companion piece to All the Money in the World. At two and a half hours though, it’s much too long, and despite impeccable cinematography from Dariusz Wolski and Janty Yates on point costumes, the film sags around the hour and a half mark. There’s only so much of the tit for tat in fighting that can be stomached before you want a little bit more humanity.
Even so, Scott reminds us that he’s a versatile director who knows how to frame a movie, and Gaga and Driver command the screen with their fantastic chemistry and impeccable instincts.