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MOVIES: House of Gucci - Review

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House of Gucci is the second Ridley Scott movie this year – on the heels of the underwhelming but ambitious The Last Duel, he delivers a tale of the ultimately doomed Gucci family, one of the wealthiest a name synonymous with power and style. But with all that wealth, reputation and royalty – it feels like a curse, too – as its characters involved are about to find out.

After the patriarch dies and his son, Maurizio, marries an ambitious social climber Patrizia, a full on power struggle begins between the remaining Guccis as Patrizia tries to elevate the status of her husband within the family. The performances across the board are mostly superb – Lady Gaga absolutely steals every scene she’s in giving powerful nuance to Patrizia, the woman who would later go onto plot to kill her husband after being cut from the family – and Adam Driver’s calm, stoic and understated performance almost feels like a reversal from his cocky, dirtbag nature of The Last Duel. Jeremy Irons’ Rodolfo illustrates the split between old and new money by clinging onto the past – but as with The Last Duel, Scott has never been subtle – the first time we meet Rodolfo he is drenched in past glories, refusing to move on – and the distinct lack of subtly means the bluntness to House of Gucci feels like a sledgehammer, every point is overstated and oversaturised for all its worth – nothing is left in the realm of chance, and more depth would have been appreciated outside of Gaga and Driver because almost everyone here feels entirely one-note, with the biggest offender of them all being Jared Leto.

I still don’t get what Hollywood’s obsession with him is as he’s flat out been awful in everything he’s been in, and he single-handedly sinks House of Gucci every time he’s on screen with a performance that feels like he was told to play someone as offensive as possible – almost feeling like a cartoon character brought to life. His accent is atrocious and the fat suit just feels unnecessary, and the whole thing could have been completely avoided if Scott had just cast an actor that looked the part. The film spends so much time with Leto that it could have easily not only cut out most of it and been a better movie, but a shorter one too – it’s three hours long and feels every minute of it. The slow pace is at a crawl – and the overused, tired needle drops like Heart of Glass that dominated a badly-edited trailer add nothing to the film other than to again, illustrate its bluntness and to remind you of the era its set in. Furthermore, the lack of commitment of Scott to accents/The Italian language is misplaced – everyone feels all over the place and there’s weird language choices where the television and the newspapers are in Italian, but everyone speaks in English. If you’re having the main cast speak English, you might as well go the whole way.

House of Gucci plays everything entirely straight in one of Ridley Scott’s most formulaic and by-the-numbers movies thus so far, and this man has made workmanlike dramas in the past like American Gangster and Body of Lies, with both elevated above their status due to the performances of the lead actors. If The Last Duel was at least ambitious, if misguided, it feels like a reversal to form here – to the point where even masterpieces like Blade Runner and Alien feel like an anomaly rather than what we should have come to expect from the director. It needed a bit more camp to make a tried and tested biopic story feel like it has any life in it, but instead it arrives on life support, bloated and excruciatingly dull – Succession is doing a much better job right now at depicting a cursed family in crisis and House of Gucci should have borrowed a few pages from HBO’s smash hit television series – smarter dialogue couldn’t have gone amiss, as the script is generally a disaster.

There are some weird character choices here too – I don’t quite buy how easily Maurizio would betray his family – he tries to brush it off later in the film but the movie feels like it’s missing a few scenes in an already long runtime when he changed his mind, or when Patrizia talked him into making that judgement call, but it feels like it’s going from one second where he’s against her making a grab for the company and the next he’s entirely for it. The transitions in character attitudes feel entirely blunt and forced too – it’s not the only time a character’s decision feels odd, and somehow in a movie that’s three hours long Scott has managed to make it feel like the whole story hasn’t been told – just like with All the Money in the World and Danny Boyle’s Trust, the event would have worked better as a TV series – but then I’m in no hurry to return to the Gucci family anytime soon.

Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski makes sure that House of Gucci looks the part – it’s a really spectacularly shot film but then Wolski has never been the weak link in any of Ridley Scott’s films in the past – he’s always been able to match the mood and setting of the piece superbly, be it The Martian or Prometheus. Harry Gregson-Williams’ score soars – but I would have liked to have it earn a bit more room to breathe, especially when the soundtrack dominates. The production design is suitably impressive as a name with the power of Gucci commands – and Janty Yates/Marco Alzari’s costumes are phenomenal, with the catwalk scenes being often where the movie feels most alive. Their work makes the costumes feel believable as Gucci clothing – and the whole film has a stylish air of superiority and class to it, soaked in the legacy of the family.

House of Gucci feels like it can't decide whether it should be more of a parody than a played for straight drama and had it leaned more into the campier side of things and committed entirely then it would have at least been watchable, but it feels like it is a movie that is at odds with itself – the dull pacing, procedural-esque direction and run of the mill screenplay pretty much sink this film before it can even start – there is no depth and character development at all.

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