Since the first trailer was dropped for House of Gucci, it was difficult to ignore the anticipation for the film. Some looked forward to seeing a potential Oscar heavyweight, and others hoped for the greatest meme factory of all time, as the trailer already provided its fair share in that department. Either way, the hope for House of Gucci was, at the very least, for it to be a roaring good time, with actors compellingly taking bites out of the scenery and a parade of chic suits and ’80s shoulder pads. Unfortunately, Ridley Scott‘s latest film ends up being something that disappoints every possible angle that one could approach House of Gucci. It’s… kind of boring.
Coming off her breakthrough Oscar nominated performance in A Star Is Born, Lady Gaga stars as Patrizia Reggiani, the daughter of the owner of a trucking company, who has a chance meeting with Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at a party. Gucci, if you could not guess by the name, is the heir to the famous Gucci fashion empire, though Maurizio finds very little appealing about the possibility of taking over the family business and would rather spend his days living the more grounded, middle class life Patrizia comes from. She, on the other hand, has her sights set on running that empire, which means she has to deal with the eccentric, bloodthirsty in business family led by Maurizio’s father (Jeremy Irons) and uncle (Al Pacino).
With films like House of Gucci and 2017’s All the Money in the World, Ridley Scott clearly has an interest in showing both the corrupt underbelly of the world’s elite, along with making them look foolish in their egotism and desperation for power. The problem that plagues both of these pictures is Scott’s inability to strip away his penchant for glossy seriousness. Sure, he can direct Lady Gaga and Jared Leto, playing the dimwitted Gucci cousin as if he was in some kind of anti-Italian propaganda film, to crank up the camp and outrageousness of the people they are playing as much as he wants, but he places them in these darkly lit, staid frames that have no life to them. There is a sludge to the cinematography that absorbs everything the camera can see, even muting a parade of what should be exquisite pieces of fashion.
Scott also never finds the right balance between calibrating the performances of just about everyone to feel like they are in the same film. Lady Gaga’s work as Patrizia, whether or not she gets the much discussed accent correct, comes from a version of House of Gucci that feels right for the story, playing up the more outlandish elements of this person without launching into a complete cartoon world. Leto does go full cartoon, which is fun for a minute but then grows enormously tiresome. Driver comes in from the ultra serious, sedate version of the film, actively playing against any kind of engaging screen presence that has made him one of the most exciting actors of the last ten years. Then, Irons and Pacino swoop in, and it feels like they made absolutely no choices in their approaches to the Gucci patriarchs, perhaps with the mentality of “I’m a pro. I’ll figure this out.”
At 157 minutes, the pacing of the film often feels like it is crawling through that same sludge hurting the visuals. Instead of amping up the personal drama by indulging in the backstabbing and constant passive aggression amongst the Gucci family, so many scenes just play out across boardroom tables or café tables or desks about what percentage of the company each person owns. While probably accurate to how the dealings at Gucci were done, they don’t exactly make for the most enthralling pieces of cinema. By the time we reach the third act that lays the track for why this particular story has become infamous, Scott has totally lost the audience’s interest with the preceding 105 minutes.
Just a little over a month ago, Ridley Scott treated us to one of his finest films in a long time with The Last Duel. It is a gripping drama about sexual assault that is often brutal, as one would expect based on the subject matter. Even that movie managed to find a way to have fun in a way House of Gucci is mostly devoid of. Lady Gaga attempt to pump the film with verve and life when she can, but the rest of the film doesn’t allow for it to stick around for too long. And if you aren’t going to be fun, you have to at least make the drama compelling, and it doesn’t really do that either. House of Gucci isn’t a failure, as too much individual craft is embedded in every department of the film. Unfortunately, none of that craft meshes together in any sort of satisfying way, making for two and half hours of frequent watch checking.
Categories: New Releases