Poor Ridley doesn’t know what kind of director he is – sci-fi (Alien, Blade Runner), historicist (Gladiator, Robin Hood) or God-Love-America (Thelma and Louise, Black Hawk Down)? He’s as confused as we are by his house-of-fashion-meets-financial-shenanigans offering, The House of Gucci. Gold-digger Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) meets Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at a Milan party. She wants him, at least the Gucci part. He’s not interested, indeed he doesn’t seem to be interested in anything at all throughout the two and a half hour story, but Patrizia won’t leave him alone. She throws all of Gaga’s famous 5 foot 2 inches at him and he marries her in a lethargic sort of way, despite the disapproval of his father Rodolfo. Rodolfo seems to have been shoehorned into the script so that we can see Jeremy Irons do his louche, disaffected rich man bit (See Reversal of Fortune). Maurizio is exiled from the firm and works at his father-in-law’s trucking firm, but still manages to drive an expensively lace-clad Patrizia around in luxurious cars of the red sort. Maurizio’s uncle Aldo (Al Pacino – bring on some scenery, there’s chewing to do!) owns the business jointly with Rodolfo and likes the young couple. He gives them a couple of Concorde tickets for a wedding present before sneaking Maurizio back into the business. From then on it’s lots of financial shenanigans as everyone denounces everyone else for tax fraud, there’s a takeover, and eventually someone gets shot.
Scott might defend the lack of much-at-all about fashion in his film by saying that it is about financial shenanigans, denunciations, a takeover and a shooting, but it is called The House of Gucci and that does entitle the viewer to expect to see quite a bit of, oh I don’t know, Gucci? (Despite Gucci’s general ugliness: see main picture). We are told very little about the Gucci line, its origins, its reach. We’re supposed to know, it seems. Whereas we can be sure that if the film were The House of Ferrari, we’d know lots about cars by the end of it. It is reported that the film-maker had trouble sourcing original Gucci outfits from that period and it shows. Patrizia’s featured black and pink dress is in fact YSL. Tom Ford is a throwaway headline [The real Ford said of the film, “I’m still not quite sure what it is exactly.”]. There is one mingy atelier scene. There is one mingy Gucci shop scene. In the one mingy Gucci shop scene, we are asked to believe that Mrs. Maurizio Gucci would need to be told that she can have anything she wants as a special gift?
Lady Gaga has been praised for her performance and indeed, it is difficult to look at anyone else when she is on screen. Reminiscent of Marisa Tomei in her My Cousin Vinny days, the Lady’s performance is not subtle, but then again, the viewer gets the strong feeling that neither was Patrizia’s. Her evolving – and devolving – wardrobe shows that, indeed, clothes maketh the woman.
Like its director, the film just isn’t sure what it is. It looks nice, the Gucci homes are spectacular, either long and low and grey, tall and pink and frilly or Villa Balbiano on Lake Como (above, ’nuff said). But it wanders off from the internecine ruckus of a high-money family feud into confused and slightly silly takeover machinations. Good people throw up their hands and evil Arabs, including a very scary and formidable Nemir Kirdar (Youssef Kerkour) ruin everything. Maurizio still doesn’t care. He suddenly ditches Patrizia for a stick insect aristocrat. Aldo’s buffoonish son Paolo (Jared Leto) cares, but we are not sure about what, given that he has been dressed by a demented clown with a thing for neon corduroy, given a poor script and acting lessons by Mickey Mouse. Rodolfo is jogged out of his ennui long enough to tell Paolo (in a very pale and aesthetic way) that he is a design moron because he put pastels with brown; whereas Rodolfo the genius put tulips on a scarf. So Paolo pisses on the scarf. It’s like that.
Despite its many flaws, the House of Gucci is watchable, but wait for Netflix and try not to ask why Italian natives, supposedly speaking Italian, are doing so with bad and intermittent Italian accents.