By Manik Sharma Nov. 26, 2021
House of Gucci retells a well-known story with unique effervescence and acting quality bordering on the absurd. Of all the headline acts, it’s the non-actor actor, Lady Gaga, who steals the show.
Rarely are films raised on such conviction that their qualities also seem like their oddities, their perfection almost feels ludicrous and absurd. The Gucci story isn’t new, not even in the entertainment space as a series on the infamous assassination of Gucci heir, Maurizio, already exists. The story has everything that has made elite dysfunctionality a genre in its own: an iconic fashion brand, a certain cadre of put-on smugness and of course greed and corruption.
In Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the book House of Gucci, an old story finds a new soul, in a handful of scintillating performances, prime of which is Lady Gaga, the scandalous protagonist of a story that is really about her mysterious exoticism. House of Gucci, doesn’t always feel coherent or even sincere – considering it’s largely non-Italians playing Italians – but my god, is it stupendously performed.
On one end you must question why a story that is part of the public domain to the extent that it is gospel, must be made again and again.
Maurizio, played by the steely Adam Driver meets Patrizia a confident young woman he falls for. Maurizio is persuaded by his father Rodolfo (a tenaciously stylistic Jeremy Irons) to dump Patrizia for she must be after the young heir’s money. Push comes to shove, Patrizia is inducted into the house of Gucci and the rest, of course, is high-profile history.
On one end you must question why a story that is part of the public domain to the extent that it is gospel, must be made again and again. Maybe it’s because stories of such gargantuan depth and mystery never lose their worth? Or just maybe, certain actors, as good as the ensemble of this particular film is, can inject any worn narrative with a breath of new life, almost a new personality.
In one scene in the film, Rodolfo discusses his son’s situation with his cousin Aldo, a terrific Al Pacino. It’s a conversation so synthetic and performative its smugness almost feels ridiculous – almost too hilarious to be any shade of true. In Adam Driver, the film has a solid fulcrum to bend the narrative around. Maurizio is given to love, but not necessarily vulnerability or even doubt. His icy gaze is as much an extension of his personality as is his attitude, his calm, cool defiance of the extraordinary. This is a man who has inherited a billion-dollar empire, and yet his impassioned handling of the world he is born in is transcendental, almost unique.
One of the highlights of the film is Paolo Gucci, a toe-curling turn by Jared Leto who many believed had begun to lose his way after his Oscar win.
One of the highlights of the film is Paolo Gucci, a toe-curling turn by Jared Leto who many believed had begun to lose his way after his Oscar win. Leto disappears, both into his exterior and perhaps the only character who must channel a kind of unaddressed ugliness.
Put all these heavyweights aside, if you can, and make space for the woman of the film instead. Lady Gaga was unknown as a specimen of acting before Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born. Today it feels almost impossible to imagine she was at a time, a rookie, unsure if acting was even her cup of tea. In House of Gucci, she holds down the house, at times singlehandedly preventing this film from seeming like a soap high on appropriation.
Her seductiveness, her flattering gaze is imperious and so is her moody illustration of a woman, invisibly yearning for things that could in the light of day, be out of her reach. Even in the company of an assured, confident man she owns her space. Her eventual descent into jealousy and violent bitterness is a thing of wonder too, so incredibly mounted it is on the foundation of authenticity and earnestness.
In House of Gucci, she holds down the house, at times singlehandedly preventing this film from seeming like a soap high on appropriation.
It takes some doing to outdo the likes of Driver, Irons and Pacino. In a film overflowing with glamorous , vain men, Lady Gaga’s Patrizia is magnetic and unforgettable despite the obvious end. At times Ridley Scott’s soapy construction of the scandal can feel overripe, its stylistic bits done to the point of ridiculing the fashion industry. But if that is a subtly coded message about the audacity of big fashion and luxury businesses, it is done with such enviable class and panache the film itself feels like a luxury item. Populated with eye-popping stars and even better performances, this adaptation of a famous modern true-crime story is more storm in an elite tea cup than a new direction the wind must take. It’s raunchy, almost too luscious at times, but acted so stunningly, it papers over whatever cracks of modesty might appear otherwise.