House of Gucci

Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) enjoyed the attention of men, but when she met the shy Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at a party, his last name grabbed hers.  The fun and flirtatious young woman put herself in the law student’s path, seducing him so that he rebelled against his patrician father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), who saw a gold digger in his son’s unsophisticated girlfriend.  Maurizio was happy working for Patrizia’s father’s trucking firm, but once they were wed, his wife was determined they claim a stake in the “House of Gucci.”

Laura's Review: B+

Director Ridley Scott ("The Last Duel") has displayed a fascination for the oddities of a rich and powerful family before in “All the Money in the World,” even approaching it from the perspective of the wife of a patriarch’s weaker son.  But while that film was dour and dramatic, focused on a kidnapping and the psychopathy of J. Paul Getty, this one is campy fun as it follows the manipulative machinations of the outsider who destroys a family’s legacy from within, up to and including murder.

The Florence-based Gucci business began in 1921 as the shop of a bellhop, Guccio Gucci, who began manufacturing high quality leather goods.  By the 1970’s, his son Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino) had turned it into an empire with stores in Paris, London and Rome.  Aldo’s more refined and conservative brother, Rodolfo, fought against the crass commercialism Aldo reveled in.  The sons of these two men were also opposites, Aldo referring to Paolo Gucci (a completely unrecognizable Jared Leto), who believed he should be the firm’s designer, as ‘my idiot,’ while Rodolfo was over protective of his learned but socially awkward Maurizio, his ‘sweet boy’ who sang ‘Happy Birthday’ when candles were lit at his mother’s funeral.

The games begin when Aldo, seeing the notice of Maurizio’s wedding in a newspaper, invites the newlyweds to his 70th birthday party.  Stating a strong belief in family, Patrizia urges Maurizio to attend, quickly forging an alliance with the uncle who recognizes a bit of himself in his new niece.  He slips her a wedding gift – two tickets on the Concorde to New York City – and soon Patrizia is bedecked in Gucci, her husband convinced to join the firm with a flashy title and vast office.  Back in Florence, Paolo tries to ally with his uncle Rodolfo, who tells him his ‘Havana Libre’ collection should remain hidden, a withering assessment.  Then Rodolfo dies, the 50% stake in Gucci left to his son unsigned (tellingly we’ve seen Patrizia forge her dad’s signatures on company checks in the film’s first scene).  Patrizia initiates a dishonest alliance with Paolo in an attempt to weaken his father and take control of the company.

Lady Gaga throws herself at this role like she’s auditioning to play the wife of a mob boss (and by the end of the film, that’s exactly how Patrizia behaves, throwing her lot in with a fortune teller (Salma Hayak) and hit men, her look grown brassier and tougher).  But it is Adam Driver who has the bigger arc here as he shepherds Maurizio from a bespectacled grinning goofball to a power mad hedonist with style to spare.  Once Patrizia has achieved her goal, Maurizio discovers he no longer has use for the woman who has turned his remaining family against him, disparaging her lack of culture in front of old friends and taking up with Paola Franchie (Camille Cottin, "Stillwater") in Saint Moritz.  Pacino employs his Pacino-ness without going full “Scent of a Woman,” his Aldo boisterous and shady.  Leto, who reportedly (via Italian linguistic specialists) conveys the sole authentic Italian accent in the film, is both comic relief and pathetic character, a sad clown.  Jack Huston provides a steadying influence as Gucci financial advisor, Domenico De Sole, the only clear-eyed one in the bunch.

Writers Becky Johnston ("Seven Years in Tibet") and Roberto Bentivegna, adapting “The House of Gucci” by Sara Gay Forden, have stripped the complex tale down to its essence (a third Gucci brother, for example, is never mentioned), back stabbing power plays set within bedrooms and boardrooms.  The film utilizes its soundtrack to establish both time and tone, disco tunes predominating, Scott cross-cutting Patrizia’s 1995 hit against her husband to ‘Madame Butterfly’ as she luxuriates in her bath.  The film wraps in a courtroom, Patrizia and her accomplices all sentenced to upwards of thirty years (Reggiani has been released and is living in Milan).  The firm which had been falling out of fashion and was rejuvenated by Maurizio’s hiring of Tom Ford (Reeve Carney) no longer has a single Gucci running it, taken over by corporate conglomerates.

Robin's Review: B

MGM releases "House of Gucci" in theaters on 11/24/21.