House of Gucci – review: Fame makes a man take things over

There is a certain point where the film market gets oversaturated with one theme or film approach after which the topic just dies out. It seems as biopic films had their peak, with Trumbo and ever since they were blooming and raising to spectacular, glorious representations of everyone and everything, from queer figures of the world (The Danish Girl), the beautiful minds (Theory of Everything, Imitation Game) to pop stars and business giants (Bohemian Rhapsody, Starman, The Founder). It feels like, the time to die out for big, shiny, popular biopics is approaching, and House of Gucci might be one of the last remains of this glorious area. I don’t mean this in a bad way, director Ridley Scott managed to gather the star-struck team of actors to tell the true story of fashion, fame and gore from the good old days of extravagance, the dirty late 70’s and shiny and glorious 80’s. Still, throughout the 157 minutes of beautiful bodies, upbeat disco hits and family deceptions there is just a certain lack of content, lack of character development and hardly enough space to rest the head. 

House of Gucci follows the story of Patrizia Reggiani (starring Lady Gaga), a humble daughter living on the outskirts of Milano, whose life changes one night when she meets Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), the blood of Gucci fashion legacy. Or at least half of it, if the stars align right. Yet, while Maurizio isn’t really too interested in following the family business, as long as he is in love, Patrizia is ready to tackle the business with his elegant and prestigious father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), money lurking uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) and family’s biggest shame and failure, the quasi artist cousin Paolo (Jared Leto). If it sounds like this is all a bit too much to be handled by just one woman, you are right, Patrizia is getting help and advice from her good old quirky gipsy fortune teller Pina (Salma Hayek).

Just from reading the synopsis, it is obvious that House of Gucci is the film that tries to encapsulate the whole story of Gucci air, all their differences, lifestyles and affairs, filmed with all the kitsch and chic while again trying to tell a coherent and interesting overall story. Ridley Scott might sound like a weird choice to be the one directing this feature, but truth to be told, in any less experienced directorial hands this film would have been a complete disaster. Scott in his film manages to balance out almost the impossible, the language differences, the depth and differentiations of characters, the dramatic as well as the comedic momentum and he does it with a lot of style.

Small quirky differentiations, as Gucci’s and other Italians slipping a few words of their native tongue here and there, as well as characters of other nationalities, the glorious soundtrack that features Bowie, Eurythmics and every other power dance hit of the time, and lots of beautiful suits and dresses on even more splendid female as well as male models pushes the viewer into the world of the film. Moments of Paolo’s extravagance or Pina’s hocus- pocus add all the needed fun and relaxation to the film. But then, when we come to Maurizio and Patrizia hick-ups start for the film. Don’t get me wrong, Adam Driver did truly the best with the script he got, and it is far away from a bad script. Lady Gaga once again showcased the full spectre of her actress talents and this is probably her best role on film so far but what is missing are small but yet significant traits and transitions within the character development.

Sure, maybe there is no need to put a lot of focus on old Rodolfo or Aldo, and they can stay in their stuck up, a bit cliche character traits but when it comes to Maurizio there is so much sadly lacking within him. He starts as this lovebird, a boy that listens, follows and truly loves his girlfriend/wife Patrizia. He is shaped by her plans, a push-over that does good for himself thanks to her. At least until the midpoint of the film, when all of a sudden, without too much explanation and not that much shown, he becomes this excentric piece of shit that only thinks about the power and luxurious life. The turning point of the character is obvious (spoiler: after the tax police comes to Gucci mansion and Maurizio escapes to the Swiss alps) but there is not a single minute of film that addresses properly this change. 

When it comes to Patrizia, while she is the most rounded up character, there are hints and traces of her character that stay underdeveloped. While yes, she is the powerhouse of the movement, and yes, she is the loud, non-ethical but yet just person, her connection to the family (as much as to older Gucci’s as well as to her daughter) gets a bit misused. Her fight with Maurizio and the rest of the legacy is always for the sake of her family but then again we never see too much closeness to it. The best we get is her being in shock when tax police „even takes the shoes of her daughter“ or when she is screaming and crying to her husband because with a family photo album in her hands.

All in all, it is hard to say that House of Gucci is a bad film. On contrary, it is the fun star and fame gazed movie for cinemas, with a splendid costume, make-up, sets as well as unprecedented acting of Lady Gaga. Yet, it is becoming a relic of a past trend, over the top biopic genre that is coming to its end, in front of the audience that is day by day more demanding audience, spoiled by the age of deeply introduced and fully developed and explained characters that we have now on the TV series, that allow, within their format, to last more than for the majority comfortable time to sit in cinemas.