House of Gucci (2021) Review
FATHER, SON, AND HOUSE OF GUCCI
Over the years, the dramatic efforts of biopic endeavors have been something of a cinematic fascination with Hollywood, finding filmmaking talents both in front and behind the camera flocking to be a part of these theatrical motion pictures. While the idea of creating a biographical feature film about someone and / or some event isn’t anything new, it is something that’s quite beguiling of capturing the essence / mystique of a character who is based in real life and presenting he / she for a dramatic picture. Some of these endeavors might shed light on their entire life (providing the “life and times” of a particular person), while others might focus on a particular moment and / or a significant point of their lives. Recently, Hollywood has somewhat basked in the idea of creating biopic dramas; finding many talented actors / actresses getting their chance to shine and “dig deep” within their characters to create some powerful and sometimes high caliber performances of their careers. In truth, biopic dramas can pull from many stories of famous individuals from famous leaders (The Queen and Lincoln), to powerful figures of state (Darkest Hour and Vice), to business moguls (Steve Jobs and The Founder), to movement shakers (Hidden Figures and Dark Waters), to wartime heroes (Hacksaw Ridge and The Imitation Game), to sport athletes (Ford v Ferrari and Race) to musicians (Straight Outta Compton and Bohemian Rhapsody), and to literature minds (Finding Neverland and Goodbye Christopher Robin). Now, MGM Studios and director Ridley Scott release the latest biopic drama from Hollywood that details the power struggle within the iconic fashion house with the release of House of Gucci. Does the film find its own “style and substance” voice within its narrative drama or does the movie flounder to capture the majestic of Gucci in the rise and fall of Patrizia and Maurizio Gucci?
In the last 1970s, Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) is the daughter of a trucking company owner, catching an opportunity to change her life when she meets Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at a party, making sure the man with the iconic surname remembers who she is. As the pair begin their courtship, Maurizio shares his interest in law school, trying to keep his distance from his family’s illustrious business in the fashion world, with his father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) and his uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) handling the empire. When Maurizio finally pops the question and marries Patrizia, Rodolfo denounces his son, leaving the young man to a happier life as a blue-collar worker for Patrizia’s father’s company. However, this doesn’t quite sit all too well with his new wife, who pushes her spouse to reengage with his family and to be a part of the business of Gucci, with Maurizio eventually taking some control of the company when his father passes. Enjoying the status and wealth that the Gucci name brings her, Patrizia is determined maintain her position in the family, persuading Maurizio to climb higher than his father and uncle’s limited reach and pass over the bumbling antics of Aldo’s son, Paolo (Jared Leto), who dreams of a fashion glory for his inane and quirky taste. Yet, heavy is the head that wears the crown, with Maurizio soon realizing the tangled web that his wife has spun around him and of the House of Gucci.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Borrowing my opening paragraph and a bit of this paragraph from my review for 2019’s Tolkien…..within the various viewings of theatrical feature films that I’ve seeing over the years, biopic dramas features are (to me) quite endearing to watch. Most of these endeavors are pretty well-made and usually a sense of “Oscar-bait” and / or “award contenders” from upcoming award seasons in Hollywood. To that degree, the features being told have also been quite compelling to watch, especially ones that uncover the lives of pronounced individuals and the affect that they left on history (be it entertainment industry, literary realms, or even in historical affairs of nations). Of course, this also brings out some captivating performances from some of Hollywood’s best and brightest actors and actresses as well as showcasing some unknown talents. Some of my personal favorites include Lincoln (love Daniel Day-Lewis in that movie), Finding Neverland (such an endearing / magical story), Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman’s commanding performance was great), Bohemian Rhapsody (love the music and Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury), Ford vs. Ferrari (such a great sports drama), and Hidden Figures (a poignant tale of race / culture as well as being solidly well-casted) just to name a few. Altogether, while the practice of producing biopic features isn’t exactly new, the past few years have reached pinnacle age of biographical storytelling for moviegoers.
Naturally this circles back to my review for House of Gucci, a 2021 biographical drama film and the second 2021 film by director Ridley Scott. To be honest, I actually heard of Scott’s first 2021 film The Last Duel before I actually heard of this particular movie. I vaguely remember hearing that he was directing a film about the Gucci fashion industry and that singer / actress Lady Gaga was attached to the project in the lead role. Of course, I’m quite a novice when it comes to big-label fashion icons and designers, so my interest in seeing House of Gucci was a bit interested. After a while, I didn’t hear much about this upcoming film, with more of a marketing push being presented for Scott’s The Last Duel. Soon, however, I began to see the film’s movie trailers for House of Gucci everywhere, with the movie being heavily promoted for the holiday season theatrical release date. And I do mean everywhere…. including seeing it for the “upcoming attractions” preview almost every time I went to the movie theaters, the various ads on YouTube, and TV promotional spots. And while that might be a bit of an overload to some, it definitely worked for me to see House of Gucci. Plus, beyond Lady Gaga being a part of the movie, the project boasted an impressive cast (i.e., Leto, Irons, Driver, Pacino, etc.) and (of course) with director Ridley Scott, who is one of my favorite film directors, bringing this biographical drama to life. So…. after viewing The Last Duel a month prior and loved it, I was definitely looking forward to seeing House of Gucci when it was set to be released on Thanksgiving weekend (November 24th, 2021). While I did see the movie during its opening weekend, my work schedule during the holidays was very demanding and it pushed a few of my reviews back, including House of Gucci. So, with the holiday rush over and done, I finally have some time to give my opinion on the movie. And what did I think of it? Well, I liked it. Despite it being a bit overstuff, elongated, and a few pacing problems, House of Gucci is a stylish and provocative cinematic tale into the power scheming and manipulative control into the family business of Gucci, with Lady Gaga shinning immensely in the lead role. It may not be Scott’s finest production in his movie directorial catalogue, but it is a solid theatrical experience with an engaging story to tell.
House of Gucci is directed by Ridley Scott, whose previous directorial works include memorable films such as Gladiator, Blade Runner, and Alien. While The Last Duel, his first 2021 film, was a historical costumed period piece drama that centered around the infamous last recorded duel in 13th century France, Scott trades in his medieval glory of swords and armor for a more fashionable tale of greedy and corruption within an industry of glamour and style. Thus, the juxtaposition of his two 2021 films is quite at either end of the spectrum, but with different iterations of storytelling. In the case of House of Gucci, Scott delves into the character study profile of the Gucci family, with a main subject interest in both Patrizia and Maurizio’s relationship and how they become involved in the family business of style and fashion. Of course, other characters are highlighted in the movie, but Scott puts these two in the main focus for the film; shaping House of Gucci around them and depicting the romance to almost hatred towards each other…. played for in some dramatic and very fun ways (more on that below). While Scott’s attention to movie storytelling has always gravitated towards more costume period piece or even to some science fiction territory, he has dabbled in perplexing character-built studies of mystery and intrigue, with an especially with his 2017 movie look into the Getty family in All the Money in the World. I would definitely that House of Gucci is similar to All the Money in the World; finding both movie examining a closer look into the lives of a powerful / prominent families and the moral ambiguity that lies therein.
For me, I think what makes the movie quite interesting is in its story and how all the characters play their respective parts. Of course, the acting talents involve help aid in this part of the feature (more on that below), but the narrative of what House of Gucci presents is perhaps the most profound. For those who didn’t know, the movie is based on a true story as well as the book titled “The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed” by Sara Gay Forden, which heavily documents the narrative found in the film. Naturally, those who knew about the Gucci family won’t be super surprised as the fates belong to both Patrizia and Maurizio, but I wasn’t one in the group. Heck, I really only knew about the Gucci as a famous fashion designer, with my extensive knowledge of big time fashion names and labels being mentioned from 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada (i.e. Halston, Lagerfeld, de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent, etc.). So, it goes without saying that I really didn’t know much about the Gucci and the fashion name behind it all, which is probably why I liked Scott’s cinematic look into this business and the various key members during the 80s. Of course, Scott and the film’s script writers Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna, does take a few liberties with the “based on the true story” tale for a better cinematic narrative, but they didn’t bother me as much (and I don’t think that it should for everyone else). Yet, despite that notion, what’s presented in the story is filled with promise and dramatic flair from such a power struggle narrative of an iconic fashion house as Gucci. Their manipulation, backstabbing, tax audit evasion / fraud, power trips that are some of the beats that are found in House of Gucci, which makes a very compelling and entertaining drama feature. In short, I think that Scott crafted and shaped a very interesting cinematic tale with House of Gucci; finding a narrative that is compelling within a character study piece and graceful enough for some intrigue of corruption, manipulation, and murder.
In its presentation category, House of Gucci is a gorgeous looking film, with its production quality stunning and just as flashy as the topic character study as the Gucci name and therefore the business of the fashion empire. As to be expected, the movie does offer all the glitzy and glamour of this iconic designer bred of this time era (circa late 70s throughout the 80s), with the background aesthetics of much of a European backdrop setting and key sense of detail of luxury and glamour. Thus, a lot of the film’s “behind the scenes” key players, including Arthur Max (production design), Letizia Santucci (set decorations), and the entire art direction, for their efforts in making the film’s background setting world come alive with such character and richness. Additionally, it goes without saying that the movie’s costume are absolute stunning and gracefully displayed whenever on-screen…. regardless of if the worn attire was for men and women. Thus, the design work by Janty Yates should be highly praised for her efforts on House of Gucci, while I must give recognition the various talents in the hair / make-up department for such lively hairstyles and facial designs for the film’s characters. Another big scoring point for the feature’s presentation is in the cinematography work by Dariusz Wolski, which effective creates some great cinematic moments throughout the story; highlight the glamour and dramatic points. Lastly, while the film’s score, which was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, provides a solid musical composition for the feature (across the board and in every scene), Scott peppers the film with plenty of 80s-esque style of music, which makes the movie’s soundtrack energetic and fun throughout. Loved by the score and soundtrack that is provide for the film and definitely adds flavor / character towards my likeable taste of House of Gucci.
There are a few problems that the movie can’t overcome, which are handled in both of its script shaping / handling and in the overall execution of the project. I’m not saying that the House of Gucci gets derailed or anything like that, but I think the movie could’ve benefited from being a little tighter in how it was ultimately shaped. Perhaps the most problematic area of which the film (as a whole) struggles is in its actually runtime, with House of Gucci clocking in at around 157 minutes (two hours and thirty-seven minutes), which is five minutes longer that Scott’s other 2021 film The Last Duel. As I mentioned before, this movie has a lot to unpack; exploring the various Gucci family members and how they played a part with the company’s rise and ultimate demise (changing from a privately own family business to a public company). So, I knew that the movie was going to be somewhat intricate and a bit long. However, the movie seemed quite that the actual runtime, slowly meandering its way through the events in a way that seem to be problematic. The first hour is perhaps the best part of the feature, with Scott focusing on the romance between Patrizia and Maurizio and a somewhat soft introduction to the Gucci family. However, the latter half of the movie, while intriguing and important, becomes less tight, with Scott stringing along sequences of events that don’t have the same type of strength as the first half. Yes, the machinations of what Patrizia does to gain power in the Gucci family is entertaining and almost “eye-opening”, but Scott (as well as the script for the feature) don’t have a good eye on how all of these things play out; spending too time on one thing, while offering a broader scope on a few important events that easily could’ve been expanded upon. This, of course, makes the movie feel longer than it should be, with extended sequences that should’ve been reduced (almost in half) in the editing process. Heck, I think that the movie could’ve edited out at least 20 or so minutes and probably could’ve achieved the same type of impact and substance that the final cut did.
It is perhaps for this reason why I think that the movie could’ve (and perhaps should’ve) been done as a limited TV series on a platform streaming service such as Netflix, HBO, or Amazon Prime. With this possibility, the story of House of Gucci could’ve easily had the time to expand and explore the various characters and events that play out in the film’s story, but in a way that is more manageable and free from the restraints of a theatrical motion picture. I would’ve love to see a limited TV series of this story. That’s just my opinion on that.
Do to the fact that the House of Gucci has such a long runtime, the movie does contain a few areas of elongated scenes and parts that seem to drag, which creates pacing issues during the second half of the feature. These slower parts, (again) while important to a certain degree, could’ve been easily trimmed down or better yet…alternative presented in a different way. Plus, certain characters get a bit shortchanged and feel a bit secondary, despite being important to the actual story of Gucci’s family / business. Thus, I think that the script could’ve benefited from streamlining certain things and fleshing out those particular characters out a bit better (more on that below).
Looking beyond those moments of criticism throughout the movie, House of Gucci’s cast is where the film truly shines; finding all the acting talents involved (no matter how big or small the role is) solid across the board and bringing their thespian “A” game to the feature’s proceedings. Headlining the picture and acting as the “shining star” of the film is undoubtedly musician singer / actress Lady Gaga, who plays the co-lead role of Patrizia Reggiani / Gucci. While her singing career is more of a highlight of what is known for, Gaga has made quite a name for herself when she starred in the movie A Star is Born and a few other side projects. Still, being her second feature film in the lead role, Gaga shines immensely as Patrizia. In the movie, Gaga is a force to be reckoned with as her character a formidable one; finding Patrizia to be a sort of “mover and shaker” as she maneuvers her way into the Gucci family business and how she position herself into “running the show” by pull strings and rugs out from everyone, including her husband. There has been a lot of questions and criticisms towards Gaga’s accent as Patrizia, who’s Italian accent is more Russian sounding. Personally, I definitely can hear that when I watched the movie, but it didn’t bother me. Other than that, I think that Gaga is terrific in the movie as Patrizia Gucci and is probably one of the best things that the House of Gucci has going for it. Her co-lead star, Driver, who is known for his roles in the new sequel Star Wars trilogy as well as The Marriage and The Last Duel, is great as Maurizio, who has a much more calming demeanor than Gaga’s Patrizia. Though that doesn’t diminish his acting prowess in the film, with Driver playing such an interesting character as you see Maurizio been transformed throughout the course of the film by the entanglement that Patrizia puts him through. Of their chemistry, I think that both Gaga and Driver have a great one. Yes, it’s not as electrifying as her and Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born, but it is one that definitely feels genuine, and one can tell that they both got along with one another in the scenes that they share.
Looking beyond Lady Gaga and Driver’s stellar and solid performances, House of Gucci finds a great acting talents in two supporting roles, with actors Jared Leto and actor Al Pacino playing the son / father duo Paolo and Aldo Gucci. Of the two, Leto, who is known for Dallas Buyers Club, The Little Things, and Blade Runner 2049, has the more dynamic role in the film, with the skilled actor playing up the bumbling goofiness of Paolo. Some might criticize the actor for playing the character with a sense of silliness, but Leto, who is always known for playing such quirky roles, plays the part with nuance and makes Paolo a very sympathetic and memorable character in the film. Naturally, Pacino, who is known for his roles in The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Irishman, is one of the more “senior” acting talents attached to this project (alongside Jeremy Irons that is) and it clearly shows, with the actor showcasing his thespian technique whenever he’s on-screen. As Aldo, Pacino is solid; creating a memorable character that is almost tailor made for the actor to portray. It’s nothing original or surprising, but it is still a treat to see the veteran actor play this particular part in the movie.
Rounding out the rest of the cast are several characters actors who lend their thespian talents to the feature’s story in more supporting roles, including actor Jeremy Irons (The Lion King and The Merchant of Venice) as Maurizio’s father Rodolfo Gucci, actress Salma Hayek (Frida and Eternals) as the fortuneteller / close confidant friend to Patrizia Giuseppina “Pina” Auriemma, and actor Jack Hudson (Boardwalk Empire and Ben-Hur) as the Gucci family confidant Domenico De Sole. While these particular characters get the short end of the stick in the movie (finding most to be limited / restricted by the script’s narration), the acting talents involved are spectacular that shine just as much as the main players in the movie. In short, I think that all on-screen talents involved in House of Gucci are solid across the board.
It was a name that sounded so sweet….so seductive…. synonymous with wealth, style, power, but that name was a curse too…. a fitting line in the rise and struggle for control of a fashion empire in the movie House of Gucci. Director Ridley Scott’s latest film glimpses into the mesmerizing world of the Gucci family; their family business, and the players that shaped fortune of the fashion industry (for better or worse) through greedy, savviness, and manipulation. While the movie does struggle with its elongated runtime and in its pacing, Scott manages to make the film have a sublime substance of power and control within the fashion house of Gucci, thanks to his direction, a captivating, astonishing tale, a solid presentation, terrific soundtrack, and a great cast of acting talents (most notably Lady Gaga in her lead role). Personally, I liked the movie. I did feel that there could’ve been more to the story than what was been presented (choosing the project to be a limited mini-series instead of a feature film) and some parts could’ve been further expanded / trimmed down, but taking the movie for its face value…. I liked it, despite the overall opinion of the Gucci being of mixed results. Both Gaga and Driver were excellent in it, and I was quite taken with the “rise and fall” tug of war of House of Gucci….as a company. Thus, my recommendation for the movie is a solid “recommended” as the film warrants a favorable viewing experience for its style, fashion, and acting talents involved. Although, I will say that of Ridley Scott’s two 2021 films, I would still say that The Last Duel is superior to House of Gucci…. just my opinion. In the end, Scott’s House of Gucci, while not completely revolutionary, reveals a captivating tale of style, substance, and a powerful game of manipulation within one of the most reverie empires of fashion. As the character Aldo Gucci says in the film “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten” …..
3.9 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: November 24th, 2021
Reviewed On: January 21st, 2022
House of Gucci is 157 minutes long and is rated R for language, some sexual content, and brief nudity and violence.