Power and glamour corrupt…absolutely…
It’s hard to tell a story about avarice, corruption and family WITHOUT being a little chaotic, but the genuine genius in House of Gucci is not one particular performance but the shared playing field which brings all of these characters down.
House of Gucci is inspired by the shocking true story of the family behind the Italian fashion empire. When Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), an outsider from humble beginnings, marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel the family legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately…murder.
To put it mildly, House of Gucci is a chaotic mess of a film…but it’s SUPPOSED to be. This is a story of best intentions gone horribly awry which were clouded by ego, greed and not knowing when enough was enough.
With Ridley Scott behind the camera for his second feature this calendar year thanks to COVID, this isn’t a film where he’s really focusing on individuals. Rather it’s about the energy of the entire ensemble. Obviously being well shot with solid pacing, the movie looks great and even when it gets wrapped up in the crazier aspects of the narrative we still feel like things are moving at a decent clip but people are looking for things in this story that just aren’t there.
Sure Adam Driver and Lady Gaga are at the front of the poster, but this film is truly an ensemble piece of acting from top to bottom. It’s not about any characters flaw, because quite frankly the film has moments where we like, but then also loathe every single person we see on the screen. No one who is presented to us is really all that likeable as this film is really about the worst of humanity and how the ideas behind power and glamour can screw anyone up. Every character needed to have their own journey that didn’t overwhelm any of the others.
It’s a story about true artifice and about people’s willingness to buy into anything if it feels like it propels them to something that is better than they are. The entire film (while pulled from actually events) is a satire on not only the fashion industry, but about the human condition itself.
While bloated, the screenplay from Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna working from the book by Sara Gay Forden takes these characters down into the pit where they all belong. Every single one of them thinks they are better than the other, and everyone of them falls into the trappings that Adam Driver’s character sees about his family from the start of the film.
While Lady Gaga is getting the obvious attention for her role here as Patrizia Reggiani in a fun and flashy turn, it’s simply a part of the whole. Yeah she’s playing it crazy which always draws attention, but it in a film that is driven by the hollow nature of success and excess we simply see a performance that isn’t trying hard enough to force something genuine and is just chewing the scenery as fantastically as possible.
The best performance in this film really comes from the likes of Adam Driver who is generally playing it straight as Maurizio Gucci who at the beginning just wants to please his new wife and ultimately falls into the trappings of ego and success which is what turned him away from his family initially in the first place.
Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons are relatively measured as the elder Gucci brothers while Salma Hayek is simply around the enable and react to Gaga ramping up her characters anxiety and Jared Leto eats so much of the scenery around him that even we as audience members are going into a diabetic coma due to his excess.
Ultimately, the best way to think about the House of Gucci is as if Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever has risen through the ranks of the Corleone family from the Godfather films; it would have driven him nuts. Everyone wants success and power, but few can actually handle it. This film shines the light on human weakness and reminds us that the shiny things in life won’t generate respect and happiness if you don’t have it from within. It’s a fall from grace and a loss of perspective that may have been glossed over in the fashion and pop culture worlds, but it’s one that needs to be remembered as human history has repeated it far too often.