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‘House of Gucci’ film review: Compelling story, unnecessary drama

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House of Gucci movie review: The film is a re-telling of the fall of the Gucci family — the men and woman behind Brand Gucci. It narrates the decades-long events that led to the unravelling of the Guccis’ fashion empire — a story of fraud, blackmail, betrayal, soothsaying and ultimately murder.

‘House of Gucci’ film review: Compelling story, unnecessary drama
Let me begin with a disclaimer. I’m not a fashion aficionado, nor do I wear — or aspire to — Gucci, Louis Vuitton or Armani. Yet, I find myself drawn to films on fashion. And there’s always a supply to satiate this weirdly voyeuristic craving.
How did Ralph Lauren become the quintessential Hollywood-inspired all-American fashion brand? A documentary called Very Ralph (2019) streaming on Hotstar, has the answers. How does Vogue put together its much-awaited September issue year after year, under the steely gaze of iconic fashion editor Anna Wintour? A YouTube search unearths a hidden gem called The September Issue (2009).
There’s an eponymous 2014 feature film on Yves Saint Lauren, another documentary on the rise and fall of fashion designer Zac Posen called House of Z (2017), and if you’re looking for a lighter work of fiction, there’s no looking beyond the popular Meryl Streep classic, Devil Wears Prada (2006).
There’s simply no denying that stories on fashion houses make for compelling cinema. Ridley Scott’s recently released House of Gucci is no exception. After all, the tragedy that befell the one-time gods of Italian fashion should make for a great movie. But as I walked out of the theatre, I couldn’t help but think of the ways the film could have been so much better all through its 158-minute runtime and fascinating material.
House of Gucci is a re-telling of the fall of the Gucci family — the men and woman behind Brand Gucci. The film narrates the decades-long events that led to the unravelling of the Guccis’ fashion empire — a story of fraud, blackmail, betrayal, soothsaying and ultimately murder.
It spans the fateful meeting between Gucci scion, Maurizio (Adam Driver as a subjugated husband is gold), and wife Patrizia Reggiani (a near-unrecognisable Lady Gaga keeps surprising us with her acting) in 1970s Milan, to his infamous and sensational murder in 1995.
In many ways, House of Gucci underlines why the Gucci story is one for the ages. Through splashes of colour, opulence, lavish locations, and Gucci-inspired fashion, it details how Maurizio and Patrizia usurp the family business from under the noses of brothers Aldo (Al Pacino proves that he belongs in the pantheon of cinematic gods) and Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons).
Jared Leto also finds prime real estate on screen as the other Gucci scion, the dim-witted Paolo. However, Leto’s dialogues are in unnecessarily heavily accented English that comes off as satirical.
The film goes to great lengths in detailing how the uninterested and forthright Maurizio is coerced into turning ambitious and greedy by the conniving Patrizia, as the duo not only pick up the keys to Brand Gucci from Maurizio’s father, the respectable Rodolfo, but also dupe Uncle Aldo and Cousin Paolo into selling them their stake in the family business.
Along the way, we are treated to the works — Gucci fashion, sprawling Milanese villas, New York City boardrooms, plenty of champagne, sports cars and impeccably tailored Italian suits — as Maurizio and Patrizia pull the Gucci rug from the right under the feet of those that wove it. However, the film disappoints on a few counts too.
At the risk of sounding like a purist, watching American actors speaking heavily accented English in a serious, big-budget feature film felt like a letdown. You can’t help but notice how Leto overdoes the accent, perhaps in an attempt to highlight the simpleton in Paolo. However, it backfires into bad acting. The film could have been so much more honest if Scott cast Italian actors instead, and let subtitles do the rest.
Salma Hayek plays a fortune-teller whose services are enlisted by Patrizia, as the two go on to develop a bond that plays a key role in the Gucci tragedy. However, hardly any time, despite the film’s overall runtime, is dedicated to exploring this relationship.
The film’s editing is mediocre at best, leaving the camera to do most of the work in attempting to paint the Guccis as the high-priests of Italian fashion. However, even that results in a jarring, over-the-top portrayal of these personalities. The characters spend a lot of time yelling at each other, there’s so much drama that even serious scenes come off as comedic, and the familial dysfunction is contrived.
Watch House of Gucci for the compelling and tragic story of House and Brand Gucci, for a star cast whose admittedly overpowering presence dominates the screen, and for the lovely soundtrack comprising classics from the 1970s, 80s and 90s — Heart of Glass, Sweet Dreams and Baby Can I Hold You can have you tapping your foot while watching the unravelling of a fashion empire.
Ignore the over-the-top acting and Jared Leto in general. Try not to laugh when familial heartburn unfolds on screen through near-satirical acting, which is also why I wouldn’t blame you if you laugh a lot. House of Gucci can be funny as it narrates the story of a tragedy, and there lies a tragedy of its own.
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