‘House of Gucci’ Review: A Criminal Waste of Talent and Time

There really is not a more hot-and-cold director than Ridley Scott.

“House of Gucci” depicts Maurizo Gucci and his wife Patrizia Reggiani (Adam Driver and Lady Gaga) as they fight for control of the Gucci fashion brand in the 1980s; Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek, and Al Pacino also star as Ridley Scott directs.

Historically, Ridley Scott makes a good film promptly followed by a bland one. Critics liked “Prometheus” in 2012, only to be confused at how bad “The Counselor” was the following year. His 2014 biblical epic “Exodus: Gods and Kings” was a snooze but he then got an Oscar nomination (for producing) “The Martian” in 2015. And in October he directed “The Last Duel,” one of 2021’s best films, and has now followed it up with “House of Gucci,” a film with the actors and subject material to make for a stylish epic, or at the very least cheesy camp, but instead results in a momentum-free drama with only occasional flair.

Adam Driver has quickly become one of the most talented and versatile actors working today, and has had a busy 2021. Aside from being in Scott’s “Last Duel,” he also starred in and produced the (very weird) musical “Annette” for Amazon. He continues to impress here, depicting Maurizo Gucci as shy and simple, compared to his flamboyant and indulgent relatives. Like everyone in “Gucci,” Driver is sporting an Italian accent, and his is probably the least distracting and most consistent of the group.

Lady Gaga, in her second starring role, also turns in a solid performance, though her accent comes across a bit more Russian than Italian. Gaga is given some scenes to sob and others to scheme (“I do not consider myself a particularly ethical person, but I am fair”), but at the end of the day I felt her character arc isn’t entirely organic.

The rest of the cast is wild, with Al Pacino seeming to be the only one who knows what sort of film he is in, delivering a solid but somewhat repetitive performance as Aldo Gucci, Driver’s uncle. Jared Leto is a pure cartoon, chewing up scenery like it’s going out of style, and his bald head and fat suit don’t help things. Much like Ben Affleck in “Last Duel,” I can’t tell if the performance is good or bad, but Leto is having a ball seemingly trying to become the first actor ever nominated for the Oscar and Razzie for the same performance (though Rami Malek gave it a shot with “Bohemian Rhapsody”). Then there is Jeremy Irons, who I am convinced has never heard an Italian person speak in his entire life because half the time he gives up midway through his sentences and just finishes them in his British tongue.

Being about a fashion brand, of course the hair and costumes are all top-notch. You would think Scott would implement a cinematography style to fit, but instead of soaking things in neon lights or bright colors, the film has a grey filter over it, making half the scenes look as if it is about to rain. It could be to depict the sad times surrounding the characters, but it just hurts the viewer’s experience, too. The editing is also awful, with scenes ending on the most abrupt note and no momentum ever being built.

The film’s script is pretty messy, with characters coming and going into the story seemingly at random (one of them disappears entirely and we are then told during the credits that they had actually died five years earlier). The film runs at 157 minutes and there is no excuse for that. It becomes clear early on that the film is rinsing and repeating scenes, all to arrive at the same point (Lady Gaga goes into a Gucci store to try on clothes and bumps into Pacino on three separate occasions).

There is no way around it, “House of Gucci” is a disappointment given its scandalous story, star-studded cast, and proven director. If it was shorter then maybe it could be worth the mildest of recommendations, but far too often the film lags before rushing to a conclusion. 2021 has been a pretty good year for movies, especially biopics, but this plays more like a Wikipedia-produced “American Crime Story” than the sprawling epic it should have been.

Critics Rating: 5/10

United Artists

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