The Father. The Son. The House of Gucci.

House of Gucci is Ridley Scott’s newest biopic, hitting theaters this Thanksgiving holiday. It chronicles the romantic drama of Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), son of Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons), the patriarch of the Gucci family in the 1980s. Through romance, lust, overconfidence, and naivety, the audience sees the rise and fall of Reggiani and M. Gucci as they take over the struggling Gucci empire from Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino) and his obtuse son Paolo Gucci (Jared Leto). As with any real-life story, the ending of such greed culminates in a series of predictable betrayals, fraud, envy, and murder.

Scott endeavors to create an epic biopic which portrays the Gucci family as a true dynasty — a fashion dynasty equivalent to the Rockefeller oil empire. Yet for all of Scott’s hype, the portrayal comes off as much less. The Gucci’s appear no different than most ordinary families, with typical infighting and betrayals. In that sense, the Gucci’s appear more secular and less fearless than one would expect; especially for a family’s whose name is instantly recognizable on 5th Avenue Handbags bearing the GC trademark.

However, biopics are not meant to be epic. They are meant to portray the true events on the silver screen with vast hyperbole and raw energy, to make one believe they are observing fiction (which in many instances, they are). To that end, Scott has limited control over a story that has already been written. You can only stretch the truth so much, as there is a fine line between biopic and fictionalized drama. Yet Scott broached this line heavily in the lead up to the theatrical release. The lead-up made one believe the Gucci’s were truly as ruthless as an Italian mob family, when in reality, they were just a wealthy family, plagued by the parasitic diseases that attach to wealth. It felt akin to a bait and switch, where the onscreen drama was far below the epic dynastic thrills promised in the trailers. Again, Scott can’t re-write a true-story. But it would have been nice for him to level-set expectations with the audience upfront, rather than through a painful, slow cadence of mini-dramas. Scott could have also edited out the first 45 minutes of the movie and achieved a similar result.

Putting aside the plot, the acting will be what ultimately brings this movie into conversation during awards season. Gaga spent over a half-year perfecting her accent for the role, and she did not disappoint. Gaga has again amazed at her stunning ability to be gifted both in music and in acting. Many musicians can act, and many actors can sing, but only an elite few who could do either standing alone. That is, Gaga’s artistic abilities are like a Venn-diagram, with one circle representing her musical abilities and the other her acting. Many artists succeed only at the intersection of this diagram. Gaga succeeds outside the intersection. She could be a singer or she could be an actor. Thankfully, she is both. 

Gaga’s portrayal of Reggiani rises to a level of brilliance and cunning that truly distinguishes her. She completes the outfit of an Italian bride with the insight and cleverness to play an empire like one plays a hand of cards. This is complemented when Reggiani’s dramatic fall leads the audience to see her weakened state and her consumption with lust and relentless envy. I surely expect Gaga to receive at least a nod from the Golden Globes for her portrayal as she transformed into a character that seemed truly made for her. 

Jeremy Irons did not disappoint as the patriarch of the Gucci family, nor did Pacino as his brother. Neither provided an exceptional performance that will stand out in their own Halls of Fame. Both brought their seasoned experience and passion to portray wealth and confidence in ways only Irons and Pacino can.

Perhaps most exciting and unexpected was Leto’s performance as Paolo Gucci, son of Aldo Gucci (Pacino). No one expected Leto to have much screen time or for his character to be complex and dynamic, but Leto nailed it and he did so remarkably. Paolo is depicted as an outlier in the Gucci family. A son of fashion designers with a lack of artistic ability. He was rejected by his father at every step of his life. In a family like the Gucci’s, this would undoubtedly leave Paolo to be an outcast, lacking in confidence, and easily prone to seduction at the slightest hint of attention or acceptance. Leto gives us all of the emotions and at many points in the film, you are rooting for Paolo to win his father’s affection and you truly feel his regret and self-anger as he loses it all. He is like Lenny in of Mice and Men. He means well, and despite his errors, you feel sorrow as he self-destructs. Leto delivered a stunning experience, ripe with emotion that added a much needed spice to the film.

Finally, we arrive at Adam Driver, playing Maurizio Gucci, son of Gucci Patriarch Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons). His performance is on par for the role, but not remarkable either. It is hard to understand the taste we are to receive from Driver in this role. Was M. Gucci always cunning and tactful, or was he made so by his wife (Gaga)? His character arch is odd and the transition from modest law student to lustful CEO was not natural, at least in its depiction. It left much to be desired and many questions reeling. He frequently crossed the border between humbleness and overbearing. This contrast is perhaps most stark in the opening and closing scene where we see M. Gucci bearing the signature Gucci belt at an Italian cafe, but riding a modest bike to his apartment. How do we interpret this? Perhaps even M. Gucci himself did not know what he wanted, which is what made the transition so awkward for a seasoned actor like Driver. Regardless, Driver delivered the role he was prescribed and succeeded, albeit awkwardly in his transition from protagonist to antagonist.

Overall, House of Gucci left much to be desired. The cadence was improper and the romance could have certainly been cut by at least 45 minutes. I would like to have known more about the Gucci brothers and the legacy of infighting and disagreement. The audience would have love to learn more about how counterfeit products actually helped the brand, to better see the circle of fraud that entangled the entire Gucci family. Given these plot misgivings, the film is redeemed by its stellar cast and the astonishing performances of Gaga and Leto. I must admit, it would be hard to watch this film a second time, given how unnecessary the first hour of the movie is, but the acting does tempt me. The film is certainly worth a watch and you may find the Gucci’s to be a true dynasty as Scott intended. 

My rating: 3 reels out of 5

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