To answer the most pressing question about House of Gucci: Yes, Lady Gaga’s performance as Patrizia Reggiani is remarkable – over-the-top in some scenes, riveting in others – but the best reason to see Director Ridley Scott’s film. Coming in a close second for his performance is Jared Leto, unrecognizable – really unrecognizable – as Paola Gucci, sporting a bald pate, flyaway hair, and wearing suits made from pastel corduroy (a fabric foreign to this Italian fashion house). The remainder of the cast – Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci, Jeremy Irons as Rodolfo Gucci, and Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci, who marries Patrizia, dumps her, and then is killed by an assassin she hires – do their best to keep up with Gaga. But Patrizia’s story propels the plot, and Gaga is definitely providing the energy.
The film is bogged down with overlapping story lines. Is House of Gucci about a love affair gone bad? Driver’s Maurizio initially comes across as the nerdy member of the family, lost in books as he studies for a career in law. He seems oblivious of fashion, particularly what’s been created by his family’s business, and naive where women are concerned. He makes the perfect target for the social ladder-climbing Patrizia. Their lovemaking is aggressive and frantic, but seems real, making Maurizio’s later decision to end the marriage all the more hurtful for his wife.
At times, the love story takes a back seat to the corporate drama roiling the family. Founder Guccio Gucci died in 1953, leaving the company to be run by his two sons, Aldo and Rodolfo, but mostly by Aldo. While Aldo’s son, Paola, sees himself as a designer (in real life, he designed the company’s famous double G logo), his father dismisses him as an idiot. No question that Gucci is losing its way and needs younger blood and a new direction. But Maurizio resists his uncle’s push to assume more responsibility, until Patrizia gets involved.
Left to right: Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci, Florence Andrews Jenny Gucci, Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci, Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani and Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci. (Photo credit: Courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Inc. © 2021)
Patrizia is ambitious, more ambitious than Maurizio, and, based on what we see in the film, has better business sense than her husband. (Before she married Maurizio, Patrizia helped her father run a trucking business, something seen as low class by Rodolfo, who opposed his son’s marriage and led a family boycott of the wedding.) When her maid shows up with a fake Gucci purse, Patrizia ventures downtown to purchase other knockoffs. She tells Aldo and Maurizio that these imitations flooding the market are cheapening the Gucci product. They dismiss her concerns. Aldo notes the more Gucci bags out there, genuine or not, the better.
What Patrizia doesn’t understand is that she can marry a Gucci, but never actually become one. When she starts pushing Maurizio to take over, she sets in motion events that not only will shut out Paolo and send Aldo to prison, but result in a sale of Gucci to a German company. Rescue comes when a young designer from, of all places, Austin, Texas, is brought in to design Gucci’s new line. Tom Ford’s creations receive raves in the press, and Gucci is back in the game, albeit without a Gucci at the helm.
Camille Cottin stars as Paola Franchi (Photo credit: Courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Inc. © 2021)
Aldo, out of prison, seeks revenge by reporting Maurizio for forging his father’s signature to a document to avoid paying inheritance taxes. Maurizio flees to Switzerland, telling Patrizia to meet him later with their daughter. When Patrizia shows up on the slopes of St. Moritz, she realizes Maurizio has rekindled a romantic relationship with a childhood friend, Paola Franchi (Camille Cottin). Unwilling to accept that she is losing her husband, Patrizia huddles with her psychic, Pina Auriemma (Salma Hayek), who finds two men willing to kill Maurizio.
Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci (Photo credit: Courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Inc. © 2021)
Patrizia spent 18 years in prison for her her role in arranging her husband’s death. According to press reports, Patrizia was annoyed that Gaga failed to meet with her. In interviews, Gaga explained that she had no interest in “colluding” with Patrizia, and expressed empathy for her daughters. In the film, Gaga’s Patrizia is never likable, but it’s hard not be be impressed by her determination to be taken seriously by the Guccis. And even when Patrizia is at her worst – when threatening Paola to stay away from Maurizio or scheming with Pino – we can’t take our eyes off her. Gaga makes the character that compelling.
Whenever Gaga is not on the screen or when we’re not treated to breathtaking views of the Italian countryside, the film lags. (Plenty of eye candy is provided by the Gucci fashions, particularly those worn by Gaga.) With a running time of two hours and 38 minutes, House of Gucci needed further editing. Whole scenes do little to move the story forward and could have been trimmed or cut entirely.
There could be, however, worse ways to spend time than watching what will obviously be one of the most talked about films of the holiday season.
Photos courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Inc. © 2021