top of page
  • Writer's picturePerrin Faerch

Review: House of Gucci (2021)


“Oscar-winner” this and “Oscar-nominee” that, the trailers for House of Gucci are shameless in their Oscar-baiting, with its campaign beginning long before anyone had even seen it - building a hype that will either meet expectations or fall short of them. Even though I was not convinced due to Ridley Scott’s inconsistent form over the past twenty years, I was still hoping for something enjoyable as I revel in the camp, trashiness it had the potential of being: a gratuitous, over-the-top romp in the same vein as Paul Verhoeven’s revered masterpiece of shit Showgirls. A case of so bad it’s good, complete with lavish costumes and the hammiest of performances. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as camp as the trailers or even critics suggested, offering an incredibly boring, bloated and somewhat arrogant piece of filmmaking that adds another blemish to Ridley Scott's vast filmography.

Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) is a young woman from a humble background, working in her father’s trucking business in Rome. But one day she gets a taste of bigger ambitions as she falls in love with Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver). It’s not long before betrayal and ambitions of power begin its domino effect, bringing the Gucci family and its legacy to its knees.

It’s impossible not to talk about any film following the rise and inevitable downfall of a family without making and comparing most of your references towards The Godfather. And although criminal activities serve as a backbone for the drama and betrayal that unfolds within that trilogy, it is a film about family first and foremost - a Greek tragedy that tests the very fabric of The Corleone’s as loyalty is tested amidst betrayal and bloodshed. The Gucci’s, however, were and are real. Its real-world grapples at power through treachery, mistrust and eventually, murder is a goldmine for Hollywood, so it’s only natural for them to want to recycle familiar themes of family and power that are based on fact rather than fiction. With young, A-listers plus some screen legends in front and behind the camera, it’s a recipe for success right? Not entirely.

House of Gucci obviously isn’t afforded the same massive canvas as The Godfather, but it also doesn’t allow for it to pace its wild, real-life story accordingly. Large chunks of the film’s timeline feel like something is missing, with many character choices and motivations happening over the decades feeling far too sudden and completely unwarranted. It's hard to care about any of these characters or even learn anything interesting about them when we are barely shown any moments that allow us to read in between the lines. There is just not a lot of depth as these surface-level characters don't offer much in understanding the dynamics of a family on the cusp of tearing itself apart. It's a wasted opportunity in giving us multifaceted characters, ones that we genuinely feel for when someone is happy, sad or betrayed. This isn't as deeply complex or fascinating as The Godfather (I mean not a lot of films can reach that level), and it's shame we weren't offered an opportunity to really dig deep towards the heart and soul of each player within House of Gucci. There are also a number of odd hard cuts scattered about that give me the impression a lot of key moments and scenes may have ended up on the cutting room floor.

Ridley Scott has undoubtedly made some of the most iconic and important films ever. Alien and Blade Runner in particular shaped and reshaped entire genres, spawning great filmmakers who admit to owing their entire existence to those movies alone. But over the past twenty years, his quality has been wildly inconsistent, offering a treasure-trove of mediocrity and flat-out garbage (Alien Covenant, we are looking at you). But despite his spotty record, his films have always looked great as his technical know-how and visual eye is second-to-none. And on top of that, for the most part, at least, he had an instinct for effective storytelling that allowed him to translate from page to screen effortlessly. George Clooney once said you can’t make a good film from a bad script, House of Gucci appears to be the case, adding another notch in Ridley Scott’s frustrating filmography littered with terrible screenplays that lead to below-par films. The fact that he berates and shits on superhero films for being boring and then goes on to make even more boring, one-note films with nothing interesting to say, is laughable. Sit down, Ridley. He just comes across as a grumpy old man, refusing to evolve, adapt and well, pick good scripts. Hell, does he even read them anymore? Does he just show up to work and yell “Action!”, “Cut!”, “Move that camera over there!”? It seems to be the only real contribution he seemed to have added on House of Gucci as any and all sense of his visual flair and instincts aren’t present within the film. I mean, the movie is about the fashion industry yet it looks as exciting and as colourful as a glass of water paired with a slice of white bread on the side for dipping. I don’t expect it to be a Technicolour visual feast, but for the love of God, give the film some sort of identity and flavour. None of the Ridley Scott atmosphere and visual aesthetic of his golden years is even remotely present here. It was clearly a choice on his part to make the colour grade so bland, and it’s a shame that the costumes and production design weren’t given a decent enough chance at being rightful centerpieces in a film set in the world of high fashion.

It’s also disappointing that Scott can’t quite seem to understand or even pick the tone with which he wants to go for in House of Gucci. Tone has always been his strong suit as he would create an incredible atmosphere within his films that was true to the written material as well as the themes he wants to convey to us. But with House of Gucci, I have no idea what the game plan initially was. Do you want to be trashy and camp à la Ryan Murphy or even Verhoeven’s Showgirls? Or do you want to be deadly serious à la The Godfather? Everyone appears to have been directed by different people in different movies as though they were handed incorrect sides, driving strange performances that are further confused by muddled plot and character beats. Did we accidentally watch an unaired episode of Whose Line is it Anyway? The chemistry across the board is forced and mismatched, making it hard to believe any of their relationships. Driver is appropriately subdued like his character but appears to be on autopilot and absent most of the time, Pacino is as ham-fisted as ever, Jeremy Irons abandons the Italian accent halfway through sentences, Gaga sounds like a drunk party host doing her impersonation of an Eastern-European spy, and then there’s Jared Leto. Not only does the needless, over-indulgent prosthetics make him look like Ron Jeremy instead of the actual Paolo Gucci, he challenges himself to give the most offensive, stereotypical impression of an Italian. You might as well throw him a pair of red dungarees and a cap while you’re at it. “A-wahoo it’s a-me Paolo!”. Was this an extended showreel from Jared Leto as he sends in an audition tape for the upcoming Mario Brothers movie?

Directing isn’t just telling a crew what to do and where to do it, it’s also about helping each actor find the crux of their character, reminding them of their intentions, goals, needs, fears, etc. Once that balance and understanding is found within each character, it’s up to the director to guide and ground them within each scene as it all starts coming together through performance and characterization set up by the writing and preparation. This is where Scott appears to have stepped in it with House of Gucci. The fact that each actor appears to be performing in several different movies within House of Gucci, indicates to me that Scott either didn’t bother keeping his finger on the pulse of each performer, or he gave each one of them conflicting, confusing direction. He needed to reign in some of the cartoonish ridiculousness of each performer, and considering Scott’s recent “fuck you” attitude to everything, I doubt he did that as we would’ve seen different performances from everyone, most notably Leto. Although Gaga is most certainly a decent actor, her performance here comes across as an underdeveloped impression instead of a fully-fleshed-out interpretation of a complex individual. It also doesn't help her case when the writing fails to take full advantage of the fascinating subject of Patrizia, lacking any sort of meaty subtext for Gaga to chew on. And again, this is where Scott needed to offer some sort of guidance to his actors, something that seems to have gotten lost in translation as the overall tone of the film remains a confusing mess as they plod through each scene with nothing fully thought out.

It’s just completely baffling to me why Scott was picked for this project. I am not sure if he was the one who wanted to do this or if he was the one approached to do it. It just doesn’t suit him at all as he refrains from stamping any sort of identity or flavour into the film. As much as I cannot stand Ryan Murphy, this would’ve been the perfect fit for him and his American Crime Story series. His campy, trashy sensibilities and his distinctive identity could’ve given House of Gucci that dash of flavour and style it needed. But my ideal choice would’ve been Paolo Sorrentino. Not only would the film have actually been in Italian played by actual Italians, it would’ve had his trademark visual flair and sophisticated tone that would fit right in with the high fashion world House of Gucci so badly wants to emulate and seduce audiences with.

Of course I wanted House of Gucci to be a good film, and although I admit that I went in expecting it to be bad, I was hoping that it would at least live up to the campy trashiness that the critics and trailers suggested - an unabashedly entertaining piece of guilty pleasure. There are a number of unintentionally (?) hilarious and bizarre moments scattered about, including an Italian rendition of the song I'm a Believer playing over a montage of Adam Driver and other truck workers playfully hosing each other. Oh, and the unsexiest office sex scene between two objectively sexy people in Lady Gaga and Adam Driver that isn't quite as funny as the pool scene in Showgirls, but is still wildly unappealing and clumsy with lots of thrashing about. I still have no idea what House of Gucci wants to be, and unfortunately, it never fully commits to the intentions (if any) it set out to achieve in being either a camp fest à la Showgirls or a respected crime epic in the same vein as The Godfather. At least we have Blade Runner, Alien, The Duelists and Thelma & Louise (just to name a few) left to savour from Ridley Scott. Here’s hoping the upcoming Napoleon biopic Kitbag has Scott at his attentive best.


Where you can watch it: In Theatres (Worldwide)

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page