Photo By: Noah Nickel via IMDB
*WARNING: This review contains spoilers.*
While Ridley Scott’s other 2021 release, The Last Duel, may have been disappointing, his direction of House of Gucci is a vast improvement.
House of Gucci is a true story, based on real-life events that will be mentioned in this review (just as a potential spoiler warning). It’s an intense film that balances drama and satire to tell the story of the Gucci family; from the meeting of Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) in 1970, to Reggiani’s arrest in 1998. It is a cautionary tale about the destructive power of greed and a commentary on the frivolity of the ultra wealthy.
The screenplay by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna foreshadows Maurizio’s murder at the hands of his wife in ways that may seem heavy-handed to people who know what is going to happen, but will go over the heads of anyone who doesn’t. The characters are all written with distinct voices, and this is not just because every actor has brought in a different interpretation of an Italian accent. All of the central characters also change throughout the film.
The story is compelling, Gaga and Driver play the love story at the start of the film with passion and intensity, and the contrast between the characters adds to their chemistry on screen. Lady Gaga is most well-known for her music career, but her work in A Star is Born proved that she has amazing potential as an actor as well. She plays Patrizia with a powerful gaze and a calculated balance between love and manipulation. Her performance is absolutely thrilling to watch.
Driver generally plays characters with a sincere-yet-larger-than-life approach, and is notorious for whacked out line readings like “I just had sex now I’m about to eat nachos, this is the greatest moment of my life” from The F-Word. But in House of Gucci he is understated. It’s everyone else who brings bold choices and intense deliveries, while Driver relies on stillness and silence to play the mouse-like Maurizio. It allows for his more intense moments to really stand out and shows the audience a side of Driver that we haven’t seen before.
Al Pacino is probably the best casting choice in the film. He’s an experienced actor who knows what he’s doing and plays Aldo Gucci in a way that allows the audience to forget he is acting. Jared Leto was an objectively weird casting choice; he is certainly too young to be playing Paulo Gucci and is decked out in prosthetics that distract from his performance. Leto plays Paulo appropriately, but doesn’t look like he belongs in the world of the film, which is generally grounded in realistic storytelling. Leto looks like you put your weird uncle in the microwave. The effectiveness of this choice is a matter of opinion, but Pacino carries the scenes when they’re together.
The only other problem with the film was the pacing. The beginning of the movie is efficient, charming, and well done, but the middle and ending drag. There are excellent moments, but some scenes feel too drawn out – presumably to create tension when Maurizio dies, but the anticipation and nerves built up over the rest of the film had evaporated by that point. Transitions between scenes are cut quite harshly, perhaps with the intention to build a sense of anxiety. If that’s the intention, it works fine.
The soundtrack is pretty retro, filled with Italian songs and 70s-80s pop music. The music choices really bring the film to life.
House of Gucci knows that it is not your usual biopic; it’s not nearly as sentimental and doesn’t romanticize the lives of the people it is about. While it might have felt too long, it is still an enjoyable watch. With its strong cast and Scott’s interesting directorial choices made along the way, it is likely to draw in some Academy Award nominations, and rightfully so.