Following my positive (yet kind of lukewarm) response to The Last Duel, I was hoping that Ridley Scott’s second directorial venture this year, House of Gucci, would turn the tables a little and give me something to chew on.
On paper, it’s a lot more up my alley than The Last Duel: a Lady Gaga-led period retelling about a fashion house with crime and romance elements intertwined? That’s a dream to me.
Having not been able to see it on release day, I’d heard some mixed things about House of Gucci which both excited and unnerved me. I’d heard that it was fantastically campy with great performances and a lot of surface style. I’d also heard that it was an overlong slog with uneven performances and a lack of purpose.
So, the results have been tallied.
I side with the latter.
House of Gucci is not the movie I expected to see walking into the cinema screen. It’s not nearly as delightfully extravagant as I’d expected, and it’s far messier than I ever dared to dream.
Clocking in at around 158 minutes, House of Gucci might just be the most oddly-paced movie I’ve seen this year and some of the editing decisions are downright baffling. There’s a sequence where Jared Leto is in mid-scream and the movie cuts to an exterior where a car horn is beeping, creating one seamless yet bemusing transition to another storyline. There are traces of silliness to be found here and Ridley Scott is clearly having some kind of fun with the material, but it never fully comes together, partly because it seems to have around sixteen thousand different tones and vibes interlinking at various points of the film.
The first piece of evidence that proves this for me is the ensemble. The movie stars Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Jack Huston, and Salma Hayek. Each of them seems to belong to a different movie entirely. Gaga and Leto come the closest to belonging together, their scenes evening out in terms of tone but they don’t spend too much time on-screen just the two of them, which only serves to highlight the inconsistency that runs throughout the film.
The performances, in my humble opinion, range from insane to pretty good. In the middle of all of that is Adam Driver, who has a few bursts of energy but is mostly quite grounded. Jeremy Irons is quite the same, which actually works pretty well considering they’re father and son. Pacino and Leto have a similar theme going on, but Leto decides to make a meal out of every single syllable of his dialogue, drawing out vowel sounds in random places and just making every line reading so incredibly bizarre that it’s hard to track him on an emotional journey. The ironic thing is that his character, Paolo Gucci, probably has the most depth and potential for multiple dimensions. The fact that Leto decides to go large during every moment really takes away from the quite poignant story that seems to be on the page.
Lady Gaga has been highlighted as the standout in the cast and she probably is but I wasn’t as impressed with her here as I was with her performance in A Star is Born. Patrizia Reggiana is worlds apart from Ally Maine and I enjoyed seeing Gaga’s take on something that’s entirely different and she does have a genuine range that’s impressive to see, but I really, really wish her character was more complex. The first half serves her better than the second, though, as there’s more subtext for her to chew on. I’d say she seems to have the best grasp of her role compared to the rest of the cast, but the script doesn’t let it come through very often which is a shame and I think comes back to Ridley Scott not quite knowing what movie he wants to make. Though, from an awards perspective, I don’t think there’s a place for Lady Gaga on my personal ballot.
It’s not all bad though, I suppose. The costume design by Scott’s frequent collaborator and Oscar-winner Janty Yates is really well-conceptualised, showing the glamour and wealth of the Gucci name without straying too far from what would be believable. Some of Patrizia’s outfits are really, really lovely.
Writing this up now, I’m genuinely struggling to think of things that I liked. The Tom Ford parts were nice and the fashion show moments were really cool, but aside from that, I think I’m all out of steam.
House of Gucci feels better on paper than what actually came of the project. Despite a handful of good performances and craft, it can’t escape its overly bloated runtime and deeply, deeply inconsistent tone.
So…maybe next time, Ridley?