Few movies enjoy a viral moment before they’re even released, but few movies have Lady Gaga improvising an iconic line like: “Father, son and House of Gucci”. There’s more to this opulent crime biopic than kitsch, but kitsch is a big part of its appeal. Directed without restraint by Ridley Scott, it’s a bewildering blend of high fashion, high camp and high tragedy that’s chaotic but also wildly entertaining.
It’s worth noting that the real-life Guccis have said they’re “truly disappointed” in Scott’s film dramatising some of their lowest moments. “They are stealing the identity of a family to make a profit,” complained Patrizia Gucci, who’s not to be confused with Gaga’s central character in the movie, Patrizia Reggiani. It’s also worth noting that Scott has dismissed their criticism rather blithely by saying: “You have to remember that one Gucci was murdered and another went to jail for tax evasion so you can’t be talking to me about making a profit.” If the director treats their high-stakes machinations as fair game, he doesn’t do so callously. A more sombre and forensic account of the family’s calamitous infighting would probably be more judgemental, too.
The film begins in disco-era Milan with a young Patrizia Reggiani wooing bookish Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), whose father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) owns 50 per cent of the family fashion empire. Snobbish Rodolfo doesn’t think she’s good enough to marry a Gucci, but Maurizio digs in his heels and Patrizia isn’t put off. Soon enough, they’re walking down the aisle to George Michael‘s ‘Faith’: a witty soundtrack choice in a film that’s full of them. Fully embracing the Gucci name as her own, Patrizia realises she can turn her and Maurizio into a major power couple by schmoozing his flashy uncle Aldo (Al Pacino), owner of Gucci’s other 50 per cent. Aldo has a son of his own, hopeless wannabe designer Paolo (Jared Leto), but Aldo’s only too happy to brand him an “idiot” in front of everyone else.
At first, Maurizio seems ambivalent about the family business and Patrizia is painted as the instigator. House of Gucci may be a film drenched in ostentatious and deliciously dated ’80s glamour, but it offers a more modern take on misogyny. Patrizia’s opinions aren’t just undervalued because she’s an outsider who married into the clan, but also because she’s a woman claiming space next to incredibly vain and dominating men. When Maurizio discovers some ambition of his own, her days are numbered, sowing the seeds for the family’s ultimate tragedy.
With a runtime exceeding two and a half hours, House of Gucci is long, sprawling and tonally all over the place. It lurches from relatively tender father-son moments to, well, a scene where Leto pisses on a silk scarf. The main performances aren’t entirely complimentary either – a bravura Gaga and scene-stealing Leto go bigger than Driver and Irons, with Pacino somewhere in between – but somehow it works. Few films can build Oscar buzz and feel like an instant camp classic, but few films are quite like House of Gucci.
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Starring: Lady Gaga, Jared Leto, Adam Driver
- Release date: November 26 (UK cinemas)