Awards season sees the release of star-studded films and there are few films released this year that have an Oscar count as high as Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci. Following the true story of the assassination of Gucci heir, Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at the hands of his estranged wife, Patrizia (Lady Gaga), House of Gucci is a two and a half-hour look into the public and private familial struggles of one of the most well-known brands in the world and the scandal that surrounds them. The film has garnered much discussion due to its American casting as opposed to an Italian cast as well as the tone of the writing which injects a lot of humour into a film that is based on a tragic true story. Boasting a cast that is led by Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, and Al Pacino, House of Gucci may not be perfect but it is a highly entertaining watch that keeps you gripped from beginning to end.
The film is Ridley Scott’s second feature to be released this year following The Last Duel which also starred Adam Driver. Scott’s directions feed into the melodramatic qualities of the story and the result is a film that is extremely camp, gripping, and filled to the brim with twists and turns as each member of the Gucci family has their own roles and motives. The screenplay was written by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna and was adapted from the novel The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden. The two and a half hour running time is a bit excessive as there are scenes that could have been edited or cut out without compromising the story but what this screenplay does well is show how Patrizia was more than just Maurizio’s wife and delving into her character so we see her side of the story. It is clear that this story has so many moving parts and different elements that bringing every detail in a feature-length film would be impossible but we are treated to a film that has a distinct tonal shift as the comedy-led first act soon takes a downwards spiral into the darker themes as Patrizia and Maurizio’s marriage begins to crack and fall apart.
Leading the incredible ensemble is Lady Gaga in her follow-up to her turn in A Star is Born which saw her nominated for an Academy Award for her performance and winning one for co-writing the song “Shallow” which became a huge hit. There has been a lot of discussion regarding Gaga’s accent in the trailer for House of Gucci with some people commenting that it sounded Russian rather than Italian; however, her accent throughout the film sounds more Italian. What is more important than the accent is the actual performance itself and there is no doubt that Gaga has done extensive research and provided a lot of dedication to become Patrizia. Where it was more difficult to differentiate Gaga from her character, Ally, in A Star is Born, there are points in House of Gucci where you forget that you are watching Gaga as she fully becomes Patrizia. Not only does this show Gaga’s ability to act against type but it shows that she is worthy of garnering the leading lady status that she has and proves her talent as an actress. Her ability to showcase the many sides of Patrizia is impressive, especially since there is a tonal shift in the film. Where Patrizia is initially charming and confident, she becomes desperate and troubled in the second half of the film as she wants to save her marriage and life from falling apart. This performance will undoubtedly bring Gaga a lot of attention during awards season and may see her receive her second Academy Award acting nomination.
Playing Maurizio Gucci is Adam Driver who turns on the charm as the heir to the Gucci Empire. Initially seeming reluctant to join the family business, Maurizio risks being cut off from the family when he falls in love with Patrizia, a woman who doesn’t have the same affluent background. However, as the film shifts into darker territory, we begin to see Maurizio lose his initial sense of self and individuality as he becomes the person he swore he would never be. Driver conveys Maurizio’s shift from aspiring lawyer to manipulative businessman perfectly as it doesn’t happen all of a sudden as he is pushed to carry out various schemes alongside Patrizia in a bid to control the Gucci brand. What is great about Driver is that he is a performer who can say so much without many words and this is important when it comes to Maurizio’s characterisation as he is a lot quieter and more observant than Patrizia.
One of the most conflicting aspects of the film is the supporting performances provided by Jared Leto and Al Pacino who play Paolo and Aldo Gucci, respectively. Paolo and Aldo are often used as comic relief throughout the film, especially aspiring designer Paolo whose fashion taste is questionable as Leto’s portrayal paints Paolo as someone who is completely oblivious while Aldo deals with the finances of the Gucci brand. Leto’s performance, in particular, has garnered a lot of love and hate thanks to its eccentric and over-the-top portrayal which feels brilliant in the context of the film but when taking into consideration the accuracy of the real Paolo Gucci and his life story, it appears as though the film is laughing at him and mocking his misfortune. Leto feeds into the camp and comic aspects of the film thanks to his use of physical comedy that saw him have a complete makeover for the role while Pacino feeds into the darker and dramatic aspects of the film as his version of Aldo fears about losing power and will do anything to hold onto it.
House of Gucci is a film that promises plenty of drama with twists and turns as character alliances shift in a bid to gain control over the family business. In the midst of the drama, it is quite easy to forget that this is based on a true story that had real and tragic consequences which have caused conversation among critics over whether the overall tone is appropriate for the subject matter. Regardless, it is a film that is filled to the brim with fantastic performances, especially from Gaga and Driver, while Yates’ costume design helps to bring the period to life and gives us a visual insight into how the characters express themselves.
What did you think of House of Gucci? Let me know in the comments below!
House of Gucci is out in cinemas now!