The House of Gucci

Directed by Ridley Scott

Screenplay by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna

Story by Becky Johnston, based on The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden

Starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek, Al Pacino

Hollywood loves a scandalous story, and for its sins, it trained its energies on “The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed” by Sara Gay Forden. That book is the basis and essence of Ridley Scott’s sensational, murderous, maddening, glamourous, and greedy “House of Gucci,” now making a splash in cinemas.

Don’t mistake my absconding the book’s subtitle to reflect my feelings about the film – I instead think it’s rather brilliant in the statements that Scott, along with co-scribes Becky Johnston, who wrote the story based on the book, and Roberto Bentivegna created. “House of Gucci” is very much in keeping with Ridley Scott’s tone and style: its largesse befits the Gucci name – exclusive, secretive, dominating, controlling and, unforgiving; a Faustian tale with its characters ablaze.

The cast is as glamourous as the name befits as well, with Lady Gaga playing the role of Patrizia Reggiani, the gold digger who happened to run into Maurizio Gucci, played with aplomb by Adam Driver, his second Scott film of 2021, and the third fantastical film he’s been featured in this year. Jared Leto plays Paolo Gucci, who disappears into the makeup as the family goof-off. As the head of one half of the dynasty, Jeremy Irons plays the quiet, steadfast Rodolfo Gucci, and like his brother, Aldo Gucci, Al Pacino brings his trademark vibrancy to the other half of the Gucci dynasty.

Patrizia comes from a family of entrepreneurs, or to be more succinct, enterprising individuals. She courts Maurizio, who has very little interest in the family business. Yet, it is Patrizia’s fire that brings her into the fold and ultimately causes its demise.

Scott taps into what he knows, and “House of Gucci” felt like an inverse of “The Counselor,” which also brought protests from my contemporaries, with a bit of “Thelma and Louise” for good measure.

If it is one thing I’ve come to understand and respect about the passion and vigor that Scott brings to his projects, it is his attention to detail, “every purpose has a thing, and everything has a purpose;” the constant layering of characters, situations, and maddening lunacy that pervades his features, he gets right in “House of Gucci.” 

He gets the very best out of each of his performers; Lady Gaga, who ad-libbed the line, “Father, son and ‘House of Gucci,” is absolutely on fire; the accent, as intoxicating as it is, feels as ‘real’ as her intent, the character wanes between sincerity and destruction. Driver, who continues to impress, plays the character as stiff as his character implies with an elegance in Maurizio’s conservative and mistrusting nature, who could very well have been a playboy, in essence, if he wanted to take over the family business.

In keeping with the spirit of the story, Jared Leto impresses as Paolo, the butt of the film’s joke. Even in his intent, the actor’s eyes shine through the makeup and define the maddening helplessness we audience feel for the impending implosion, as he sets out to make a name for himself. Out to stop all of the nonsense as best they can, are Rodolfo and Aldo Gucci, with two titans in their respective roles; Irons is steadfast in his ways, conservative to a fault, but not without reason – the Gucci name is something to protect, not only in legacy but in the space with which they sell their wares. Scott explores this when they realize knockoffs are being sold that are as good as the originals – everyone can have a Gucci; Rodolfo rebukes this very idea while Patrizia, who Rodolfo sees through, and Aldo support the idea of expansion. Aldo is the fun uncle who likes to party as much as he is about the business. It was fun to see Pacino open up, to play to his comedic sense of timing, to let the actor breathe through the thick layers of sabotage and self-sabotage happening right under his nose, and right down to a modern take on Michael Corleone.

“House of Gucci” is as serious a drama as it is a caricature of the real people who defined the tragedy. Scott conveys a consistency in the film through the technical masters, Dariusz Wolski and Harry Gregson-Williams; Wolski’s cinematography is rich with brightly lit scenes, and even in the dank, darkest corners, still manages to convey an unassuming giddiness in its images while Gregson-Williams’ score brings a lushness and opulence befitting the family name.

The film runs 157 minutes, and you feel every minute being soaked in the dynastic family politics of one of the fashion world’s legacies coming unraveled as if one is sun-drenched on the Italian Alps, madly sashaying down a snowcapped hill, through a minefield of characters, poised to jump out when you least expect; Scott revels in it as does the cast. It will undoubtedly divide audiences and cinephiles as it already has divided critics.

“House of Gucci” sits as a guilty pleasure like “The Counselor,” and is sure to get Lady Gaga the best actress nod she so rightfully deserves for her performance. Does that give credence to the real tragedy behind this story? I’m not one to say yes or no to that question; the story has thoroughly been distilled and fictionalized from the facts that it stands apart. Ridley Scott reminds us of his mastery of the form.

R, 157 minutes, MGM/Bron Creative/Scott Free Productions