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House of Gucci

Released 2021. Director: Ridley Scott

AN OVERWORKED MELODRAMA OF GREED AND MURDER SET IN THE WORLD OF high-end luxury and vast family fortune. Sons against fathers. Wife against husband. Milan, New York, the Swiss Alps. Even a TV psychic. Sounds like plot elements out of a pulpy potboiler, except it’s not. House of Gucci is based on real events that unfold like the pages of a Sidney Sheldon novel.

Ridley Scott has taken the tabloid luridness in the history of the Gucci clan and funnelled it through Hollywood filmmaking sophistication to give us a… how shall I put it, crazy and shallow entertainment that’s all sensation and no contemplation.

Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga, brassy and showy) first meets Maurizio (Adam Driver, suave by 1978 standards) at a party where she asks him to fix her a drink, mistaking the man as the bartender and barely looks at him. When Maurizio introduces himself with Gucci as his last name, the lady’s eyes widened and you could almost see dollar signs spinning like slot machine reels and hear the cash tray ringing like cymbals crashing onto the floor. Jackpot, baby!

Patrizia begins to stalk the soft-spoken, easy-going target like a predator eyeing her unsuspecting prey, conveniently running into the unwary lawyer-in-training and unabashedly making the first move, and reels in the big fish easily.

Maurizio’s father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) sees through Patrizia’s motivations and warns his son about his girlfriend. But what does the old man know, right? Maurizio chooses the girlfriend over family and gets cut off, moves in with Patrizia, works for her father cleaning trucks and the couple get married, hardly attended by anyone from the groom’s family.

They know this estrangement can’t last long. Maurizio is the heir apparent to a multi-million-dollar dynasty. When the patriarch is stricken with illness and time is running short, the prodigal son is welcome home with open arms and Patrizia’s taste for the good life really takes off. Mrs Gucci luxuriates at the summit of wealth as she schemes against other family members to secure her husband’s ascension.

Nothing lasts forever and no amount of leather handbags and pretty dresses can buy an ounce of happiness when Maurizio divorces Patrizia a few years later. And so the scorned woman hires some goons to kill him. Yes, kill the bastard, but make sure I get the house.

The collapse of the house of Gucci, as the movie goes, has plenty of do with letting in Patrizia. Rodolfo’s brother Aldo (Al Pacino) is part owner and an active director of the Gucci affairs but fraud eventually puts him behind bars. Aldo’s son Paolo (Jared Leto) is an aspirant artist only in his own mind, immature and lacking a head for business. He whines like a child and urinates on a prized family possession when his uncle tells him his drawing sucks. Eventually, illegal activities, bad judgements, betrayals, an extra-marital affair and some underhanded maneuvering open the door to an unwelcome takeover by outsiders and Maurizio gunned down in broad daylight.

There are enough scandalous aspects to fill a novel but the movie never comes alive with genuine human interest. The narrative charges ahead in one predictable direction without surprise, flair, humour or suspense.

What’s most distracting is the level of detachment in the performances. These are superbly capable A-list Hollywood royalty who are given a script that makes no attempt at humanising or understanding the characters. Instead, it exploits them for circus value, pushing for excess and spectacle as if that alone could enrich the characters.

And so we have actors inflating their roles, chewing the scenery and grinding their molars on gold and leather shamelessly trying to out-act each other. Even if I don’t name them, I’m sure you can guess which two of them basically hijack the movie and run away with it. One takes it to a dial just under operatic while the other kicks it up to a cartoonish notch. Both ring ostentatious, exhibitionistic and emotionally hollow.

The sad thing is whilst the performances turn outrageous the performers are trying to be serious. You could feel a black comedy struggling to burst forth but Scott’s take on a true-crime saga is sabotaged by his actors. I don’t believe Scott and the cast set out to make a caricature, or even anything this remotely crazy. Tragically this is what we get. House of Gucci is an outlandish exercise with theatrical flourishes that would find a home in daytime soap.


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