Crime Drama

Review: ‘House of Gucci’ is an Outlandish Look at the Fall and Rise of the Italian Fashion Empire

November 24, 2021Ben MK

When you think of haute couture, you don't normally think of betrayal, revenge and murder. But for the billion-dollar empire that is Gucci, the journey to becoming one of the world's most coveted luxury brands wasn't as illustrious as one might think. Now, for his 27th feature film, director Ridley Scott has assembled an all-star cast that includes Adam Driver, Lady Gaga and Jared Leto, as he sets out to tell the sordid true story behind the fall and rise of the Italian fashion house.

Beginning in the 1970s but spanning the next two decades, the movie centers on the relationship between aspiring lawyer Maurizio Gucci (Driver) and the middle-class Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga). The only son of former actor Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons) and the grandson of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci, Maurizio was never much of a ladies man. However, when he meets the beautiful Patrizia at a party one night, the low-key heir to the Gucci fortune soon finds himself falling head over heels for his soon-to-be-wife, a brash woman whose humble background gives Rodolfo valid cause for doubting the genuineness of her intentions. None of that matters to Maurizio, though. Yet, while the early years of their marriage are relatively blissful, their union eventually takes a dramatic turn for the worse, as temptations of greed and infidelity soon get the better of them.

Meanwhile, the other members of the eccentric Gucci clan find themselves embroiled in an equally bitter feud that sees Maurizio's opportunistic uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) and Aldo's bumbling son Paolo (Jared Leto) competing with Rodolfo and Maurizio for control of the family business. It's a battle with high personal stakes that eventually spills over into the realm of the Italian legal system, with Maurizio taking Aldo to court and the latter being sent to prison. Yet, the familial dispute pales in comparison to the crisis unfolding in Maurizio and Patrizia's own household, with Patrizia eventually turning to TV fortune teller Pina Auriemma (Salma Hayek) for advice. And when Maurizio leaves her and their young daughter for another woman (Camille Cottin), it drives Patrizia to take drastic measures, hiring a pair of hitmen to help her resolve her marital problems once and for all.

Based on the book "House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed" by Sara Gay Forden, what follows is just as titillating as the source material might suggest. And thanks to the actors' scenery-chewing performances, the only thing that could possibly be more mesmerizing is watching the cast of RuPaul's Drag Race put on a stage production of The Godfather. From Lady Gaga's portrayal of a woman laser-focused on getting what she wants to Jared Leto's cartoonish caricature of a buffoon who dreams big, audiences won't be left wanting for commitment from this cast. Where the film does fall short, however, is with its scattershot screenplay. And if not for the caliber of the ensemble bringing it to life, the result would be a far different movie.

It all adds up to something that no doubt sounded better on the page than it fares on the screen. Yet, even though this fashion-themed, true crime opus feels overly long and overly ambitious, viewers will have a hard time looking away. You can call it an outright disaster or you can call it a masterpiece — but whatever you do, you can't accuse House of Gucci of being boring. On the contrary, this might well be the most outlandish and over-the-top film Scott has ever made, even though most of the attention that it grabs is unintentional.

House of Gucci releases November 24th, 2021 from MGM Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language, some sexual content, and brief nudity and violence. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 37 min.

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