house of gucci

Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Becky Johnston, Roberto Bentivegna
Cast: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek, Al Pacino
Cinematographer: Dariusz Wolski
Editor: Claire Simpson
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci is a story of excess. Over the two-and-a-half-hour-long film, obscene amounts of wealth and heightened human emotion are showcased in the form of a melodramatic soap opera, to wildly entertaining results. Fierce desires propel all of the characters in this family saga — the desire for love, paternal acceptance, luxury or the preservation of one’s legacy. When they’re most in danger, however, is when they let the lines between Gucci, the family, and Gucci, the business, blur. All the major players in this saga alternate between having it all and belonging to neither. “Strong family makes a strong business,” Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) tells her husband, Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at one point, a pithy sentiment in a film in which unrest perpetually threatens to topple either unit. 

Spanning from the early seventies to the mid nineties, the film opens with the beginning of the end — the meetcute between Patrizia and Maurizio. Both are naive and steely in their own way, which the film only reveals in time, first opting to outline them in broad strokes. When Patrizia, who’s lived a hardscrabble life, hears Maurizio’s celebrity surname for the first time, her face immediately telegraphs her motives in getting to know him better. The endearingly floppy-haired Maurizio, who’s been sheltered following his mother’s death, can’t help but be drawn to the sheer liveliness emanating from Patrizia. Pulling his strings and orchestrating scenarios to run into him, she’s obviously the dominant partner in this relationship. Even the filmmaking mirrors this: when the two of them have sex in the office of her father’s truck business, the camera zooms onto her face, leaving only the back of his head to fill the edge of the frame. Gradually, however, Patrizia becomes the one who’s edged out, Maurizio having become a monster of her own making. 

Scott lingers on Gucci products at pivotal moments in the film and uses them to stage major revelations. The film opens with Maurizio’s Gucci belt and Gucci watch, long before his face becomes visible. A rare Gucci shoe becomes the evidence of a shocking betrayal. Knockoff Gucci products spark the first frisson of discontent among the family. The most important mementoes in the film, however, have nothing to do with the brand. In one of its most heartbreaking scenes, Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) sits surrounded by film reels, his late wife’s movies projected onto a large screen. Almost all the characters are haunted by some spectre or the other, whether self-doubt, loneliness or stasis, but Rodolfo most literally so. Scott underlines this by shrouding most of the film with a grey pallor. 

That’s not to say the movie isn’t fun, as it frequently is whenever Jared Leto, unrecognizable under a thick layer of prosthetics, playing bumbling black sheep Paolo Gucci appears. Outlandish accents, a television psychic, and a murder plot all add to the glorious mayhem.It’s only when the first cracks in the empire begin to show that the director pulls back from the farcical staging and lets a more empathetic story of human greed and its cost unravel. With this, he manages to make the last act as shocking as it is inevitable. 

Recommendation in collaboration with Amazon Prime Video

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