Synopsis: Relatives behave badly to assume power in the family fashion business. (Streaming on Amazon as of April 14, 2022)
Set up the tent and make some s’mores because this is camp with a capital ‘C.’ House of Gucci mines the family and business history of the Gucci fashion empire. Expect a jumble of accents, melodrama and luxury porn.
The House of Gucci, founded in Italy in1921 by Guccio Gucci, began as a luxury purveyor of leather goods like luggage and purses. Such humble beginnings before crafting over-sized jumpsuits with interlocking G’s for celebs like singer-songwriter Billie Eilish. By the 1970’s, when the movie begins, Gucci was selling haute couture. It was reigned over by the founder’s sons, Rodolfo and Aldo.
Jeremy Irons’ greatest role will always be Scar from The Lion King, but he’s also fun to watch here as Rodolfo, an immaculately dressed snob who is grooming his law student son, Maurizio, to take over for him. Adam Driver is Maurizio and tries, unlike all of the other actors, to not make a comedy of Italian-inflected English. Adam reminds us that, in spite of having no Italian heritage, his character is Italian through and through, by saying things like: I need an espresso! He also really knows how to rock big nerdy eyeglasses.
The other brother, Aldo is portrayed by consummate scene-chewer Al Pacino. Since Coppola worked with him in The Godfather, no one has been able to tell Al to reign it in; see Dog Day Afternoon and all of his subsequent films. But this is all well and good because his screen son, Paolo is Jared Leto, who really knows how to swing for the bleachers in bizarro characterizations.
Paolo fancies himself a designer, but he has no talent which his Uncle Scar is quick to tell him. He’s horrified when Paolo presents him with fashion sketches featuring brown and pastels. Leto has Paolo speak in droplets of flute-like notes as he wheedles whomever he needs to pay his bills. At one point he complains to his father –like he is really suffering–that he doesn’t even have basic cable. Madonna mi!
Leto is swathed in makeup and prosthetics from his receding hairline, unrecognizable face to his big belly. No pretty face, no skinny rock star torso. I wouldn’t say his performance is good per se, but he is entertaining, whingeing about how he could fly like a pigeon if only his family was willing to see his talent.
A word about the accents… Everyone in House of Gucci is doing a different “Italian” accent. (Sadly, there are no Italian actors in the movie–some Italian- American actors though.) The cast speak to each other as though they are just beginning to learn a new language. At one point, Jeremy Irons, splashing around in his Italy-by-way-of-England accent, asks someone: Howa do you-a say-a “sweet”? You just said it! Because you know the words in your supposed native language! And onto the biggest accent from the pièce de résistance of the movie…
Lady Gaga, née Stefani Germanotta in NYC. Gaga is very glamourous and dramatic in her role as Patrizia, the wife of Adam Driver’s Maurizio. She also wields a flashy Russian accent. But it’s not Mother Russia she loves, it’s Gucci she loves. She starts out loving Maurizio it seems, but she falls really hard for the luxurious Gucci lifestyle.
When young Maurizio meets young Patrizia at a Euro-trash house party, they dance and flirt. I was hoping Gaga would start belting out “Paparazzi” on the dance floor, but she is only doing her acting thing here. And act she does: her future Mrs. Gucci is tantalizing and nakedly ambitious. She and young Mr. Gucci make out and zoom around on his motorcycle. Her lust is not limited to her man. When she and her now-husband visit Uncle Al in New York, he tells her she can have anything in the Gucci store. She goes into a shopping ecstasy before our eyes.
As the House of Gucci trailers let us know, middle age is unkind to the Gucci’s love affair. Thankfully, Gaga’s Patrizia is still having a satisfying love affair with all of the Gucci products she can get her hands on. But Maurizio, so entranced with Patrizia in his youth, spends more and more time at ski chalets and avoids their bed. When Gaga’s spurned wife is angry, she yells at her reluctant husband and her Russian accent becomes thicker than ever. Sometimes she is sad about their lost love and appeals to him desperately. This is when Gaga shows off her acting chops and we can forgive her refusal to work with an Italian language coach.
Maurizio just wants his wife to go away. But Patrizia will not go away. And no one who has seen Gaga in concert would expect her to go quietly either.
Adding to the drama, the House of Gucci’s future hangs in the balance time and again. The blood relatives fight for company shares while Patrizia demands credit for her contributions to the company, which may or may not be valid. In any event, no one could refute that she was a walking advertisement for the brand.
And Gaga is a walking advertisement for drama, luxury and talent just like Gucci. The jury is still out on Jared Leto 😉