Release Date(s)2021 (February 22, 2022)
Studio(s)Scott Free Productions/Bron Creative/MGM/United Artists (Universal Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C+
House of Gucci features a stellar cast playing colorful characters in a family business roiled by stubbornness, greed, and a romance that goes sour. The film is based on the book The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed. Loosely portraying actual events with considerable dramatic license, it offers a fascinating look at the behind-the-scenes intrigue of the Gucci family and its fashion empire.
As the film opens, the Gucci brand, once synonymous with luxury and wealth, is on a downslide thanks to savvy competition and expert knockoffs. The two patriarchs of the family are old and out of touch with a changing world. Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons) clings to the brand’s former glory while his brother Aldo (Al Pacino) wants to expand the business into shopping malls. They must also settle on who will lead the enterprise when they no longer can. It can’t be Paolo (Jared Leto), Aldo’s incompetent son, and Rodolfo’s son, Maurizio (Adam Driver), is a studious introvert with little interest in the family business.
When shy, cultured Maurizio meets bubbly, working class Patrizia Regiani (Lady Gaga), he becomes infatuated and wants to marry her. Rodolfo, however, regards her as a gold digger unfit to wed his son. Maurizio marries Patrizia anyway and is promptly disowned. He gets a job with Patrizia’s father’s trucking company and is content with the simple life.
When Uncle Aldo invites the newlyweds to his 70th birthday party, Patrizia is exposed to a world of privilege she covets. She persuades Maurizio to re-enter his family’s business and becomes a formidable behind-the-scenes force. She understands that knockoffs are bad for business, while the Guccis have their head in the clouds, convinced that their name alone is sufficient to insure profits. Intrigues abound as betrayals at various levels drive the drama, with Patrizia taking on a Lady Macbeth role as she attaches herself to a family that will always regard her as an outsider.
The stand-out performance in House of Gucci is that of Lady Gaga. This is a well thought out, emotional portrayal that outshines those of her more experienced co-stars. When we first meet Patrizia, she’s a young, flirtatious woman who falls in love with Maurizio and is aggressive in pursuing him, only to learn afterwards of his pedigree. She later pushes the complacent Maurizio into taking an active role in steering the business. As the film progresses, she becomes like a pit bull as she goads her husband into destructive competition with the rest of his family and he makes a decision that drives her over the edge. Gaga totally inhabits the character of Patrizia. When she’s on screen, she’s electric.
Driver is laid back, soft spoken, and deliberate in his speech and actions. He conveys Maurizio’s transformation from awkwardness to elegance with his classic attire and aloof manner, and seems to analyze every word. Driver’s performance is so skillfully calibrated that we can see the shift in his feelings toward Patrizia long before she does. He recoils from her while being too well-mannered to say so.
The most unusual performance is from Jared Leto, unrecognizable as Paolo, in a balding wig and tons of facial prosthetics. It’s curious that director Ridley Scott chose Leto for the role instead of an older character actor; the casting seems like a stunt. Leto plays Paolo as a buffoon, overly exaggerating his cluelessness, painting him as simpleminded rather than merely unsuitable to run a company. Though he elicits a few laughs in an otherwise melodramatic film and his make-up is extraordinary, Leto’s performance is ludicrous.
Al Pacino, deeply tanned, adds stature to the role of Adolfo. His accent comes and goes, but he easily conveys authority as a Gucci, even as the fortunes of his company are in peril. And, yes, there’s the requisite scene in which Pacino blows up and has a shouting fit. His Adolfo contains elements of Michael Corleone in that both characters are family heads, powerful, and highly respected.
After meandering for over an hour, the film shifts into high gear when Patrizia takes center stage as a Machiavellian manipulator and plotter. A more streamlined film would have increased suspense tremendously while keeping Patrizia the focus.
House of Gucci was captured by director of photography Dariusz Wolski digitally in the ARRIRAW codec (at 4.5K) using Arri Alexa Mini LF cameras and Panavision Vintage 65 and Panaspeed lenses, finished as a 4K Digital Intermediate, and presented in the widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Clarity is excellent on the Universal Pictures Blu-ray release. The picture is sharp and beautifully detailed. Wrinkles in Irons’ and Pacino’s faces, clothing patterns, and furnishings are nicely delineated. The color palette varies from bold primary colors in Gucci dresses to softer hues in the attire of the Gucci men. Paolo’s clothing is as extreme as his character, with adventurous combinations far from classic Gucci. In a club scene, flashing blue light plays on faces, providing an interesting atmospheric touch. Later in the film, Gaga’s make-up is darker and more sinister looking, reflecting her mood. Locations, costumes, and photography combine to make a visually dazzling picture.
The soundtrack is English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Alternate audio options include Spanish 7.1 DTS-HD, French 5.1 DTS Digital Surround, and English 2.0 DVS (Descriptive Video Service). Optional subtitles include English SDH, Spanish, and French. Dialogue is clear and precise. However, every “Italian” character speaks differently, which is distracting. Only Lady Gaga’s northern Italian accent rings true. The film’s score by Harry Gregson-Williams is fairly routine, and is more notable for filling dialogue-less scenes than for conveying emotion. Songs by Donna Summer, David Bowie, George Michael, Blondie, Black Machine, and others suggest the time period.
Bonus materials include the following:
- The Rise of the House of Gucci: Making Of (10:14)
- The Lady of the House (5:35)
- Styling House of Gucci (5:26)
The Rise of the House of Gucci: Making Of – The film recalls the Medicis and the Borgias. It’s Shakespearean in nature with a tragic romance. Director Ridley Scott notes that the hardest thing about making a movie is getting what you want on paper. If the script is first-rate, “the cast will come flocking.” Lady Gaga was cast first, making it easy to get the rest of the cast. Creating Jared Leto’s make-up for Paolo involved extensive preparation in a fairly short period of time. “The Gucci family was royalty in the fashion industry.” The two Gucci brothers were very different. Maurizio rebels against his father because he feels he cannot live his own life. Scott used four cameras working simultaneously in order to capture action from the best point of view.
The Lady of the House – “Patrizia is a woman in a man’s world.” She’s ambitious, but there’s love there at the beginning. Both Patrizia and Maurizio are seduced by the unattainable. According to cast and crew members, Lady Gaga captured the essence of Patrizia. Director Ridley Scott discusses that a singer can be a proficient actor because singing is telling a story with feeling.
Styling House of Gucci – The visual team of art director, costume designer, and director of photography discuss the collaborative process of creating the look of the movie. A color palette is decided early on so that elements do not clash. Gaga had 54 outfits, a different one for each scene she’s in.
Included within the package is a Digital code on a paper insert.
House of Gucci takes the viewer into the rarefied world of wealth and privilege as it examines the effect of an ambitious outsider on traditions as she maneuvers for a place in that world. Though too long, it holds the viewer with its A-list cast and especially, an excellent performance by Lady Gaga.
- Dennis Seuling