All style and no substance
Ridley Scott has had way more hits than misses during his long and varied career, with such movies as Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, and The Martian achieving near-classic status. Misfires have been few and far between but even those movies that haven’t worked (G.I. Jane, The Counselor) can still be considered watchable.
So, what about House of Gucci? This movie about the famous fashion family certainly seemed promising when it was first announced as the Gucci’s story is laced with backstabbings, in-house squabbling, and murder! In theory, this should have been the movie equivalent of your favourite television soap opera!
Sadly, however, this isn’t very good. The cast is great – Lady GaGa, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons – but they have been lumbered with a script that only scratches the surface of the juicier aspects of the Gucci family’s story. I imagine the book that this movie was based on (The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed) was probably better as with a title like that, it certainly appears to be everything you want if you’re after a shocking and scandalous tale about the upper elite. Unfortunately, the screen version is not so interesting!
The movie covers most of what you expect if you already know something about the Gucci’s story, but rather than delve into the murkier aspects of the family dynasty, it skirts over them with surprising brevity. As House Of Gucci runs at a whopping 2 hours and 38 minutes, Scott certainly had time to focus on the jealousies, resentments, and murderous plotting that are at the core of this family’s story. But instead, far too much of the running time is taken up with the business side of the family’s enterprise – aka the boring bits!
If you don’t know much about the Gucci’s story, I won’t reveal too much here. Some of the twists and turns need to be hidden as I would spoil the movie otherwise. But in terms of the basics of the plot, the movie begins with Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) working at her family’s trucking business. She is seemingly content, despite the lowly nature of her position in life, but after meeting Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at a party, her world changes. It’s not long before the two fall in love and get married, despite the disapproval of Maurizio’s father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) who disowns his son for marrying a commoner.
To get her husband back into his father’s good graces, she cozies up to Maurizio’s uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) and is soon taken under the wing of this friendly but dishonest gentleman. She then meets Aldo’s son Paolo (Jared Leto), a rather unintelligent fellow who desperately wants to be a fashion designer within Gucci, despite his lack of talent.
It’s thanks to Aldo’s influence that Maurizio is able to reconcile with his father. Sadly, Rodolfo dies soon after and it’s at this point that the Gucci Empire starts to go into decline. To understand why you have to see the movie or better yet, look up information online (or read the book) as the movie fails to be as interesting as it should be, despite the sordid events that follow next in the story.
Part of the problem is Scott’s tendency to fast forward through the timeline so we never get the opportunity to understand more about the characters and their motivations. The performances help to cover the weaknesses in the narrative, although it has to be said that some of the actors fare better with the Italian accents than others.
Many people have criticised Jared Leto for his performance but I have to say it’s not that bad. As Paolo, the black sheep of the Gucci family, he’s actually one of the highlights of the movie. He provides intentional moments of levity whenever he appears on screen, which is certainly a good thing as the movie is a bit of a slog at times. More time spent with him and less spent with the rather boring Maurizio would have been a good thing, even if Driver is as reliably good as ever, despite his underwritten role.
As with Scott’s other ‘bad’ movies, House Of Gucci isn’t completely unwatchable – with this cast, how could it be? However, it falls into that cliché of being all style and no substance, with fewer scenes of high drama than you might expect, despite the bloated running time. As Ridley Scott is at the helm, the movie certainly looks the part. But this should have been good, campy fun, and not the tiresome family drama that it ultimately ends up being.
Verdict - 5.5/10