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Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci is ridiculous, but it’s one helluva good time.
For nearly three hours, Scott subjects viewers to a probably offensive array of “Italian” accents (e.g. “Never confuse shit with choco-lato”), sex in sweaty offices, Jared Leto chewing the absolute fuck out of the scenery while doing his best Mario impression, gaudy jewelry, expansive vistas, 1980s music, and decent-looking Gucci fakes. Remarkably, the whole affair never quite strays into the expected camp territory.
While the entire star-studded cast of the film, which opens tomorrow, gives generally compelling performances (Al Pacino Al Pacino-ing the house down), the person who hits the mark every time with theater-kid like enthusiasm is Lady Gaga herself. Her performance alone is the reason you should drag your turkey-stuffed body into the theater this weekend to watch the crumbling of a wealthy Italian family, ridiculousness be damned.
House of Gucci‘s operatic excess and self-seriousness operates in the service of the melodrama that defines its source material: The real-life story of Italian socialite Patrizia Reggiani hiring a poor hitman to assassinate her ex-husband and Gucci heir, Maurizio Gucci, in 1995. Drawing from Sara Gay Forden’s 2001 book, which shares the film’s title, Scott dives into the birth and violent death of Patrizia and Maurizio’s relationship, as well as the Gucci brand’s move from a family-run business of yore to a modern-day fashion house.
As Patrizia Reggiani, Gaga is undoubtedly the center of gravity in the film. Her preparation for the performance is already the stuff of legend. The pop diva told British Vogue she did not break character as Reggiani for nine months, the type of commitment absolutely no one asked for but that was clearly necessary to embody a woman of this much passion. Decked out in heels, pitch black hair, and tight-as-fuck Gucci dresses (or ski suits), Gaga’s tense and committed portrayal of Patrizia sparks with electricity against Adam Driver’s rather restrained Maurizio.
She remixes the sign of the cross (“Father, son, and House of Gucci,” an instant meme), Lady-Macbeths her husband’s vicious takeover of the Gucci brand, inscribes the word “Paradiso” in her agenda on the day of Maurizio’s murder. And while her accent sounds rather Slavic, stans have pointed out the similarities between Gaga’s vocal performance and the woman she’s portraying.
It all might seem excessive, but I think the film-version of Patrizia actually underplays the drama of real-life Patrizia. We’re talking about a woman who, after 18 years in prison for orchestrating her ex’s murder, now stalks the streets of Milan with a pet macaw on her shoulder and who, at one point, did not seem to regret her actions.
In interviews, Gaga has blamed love more than money on Patrizia’s decision to murder Maurizio after their marriage fell apart. I would argue her own performance actually undercuts that take. Though passionately in love with Maurizio, Gaga’s version of Patrizia clearly sees herself as an essential part of expanding Gucci fashion empire, repeatedly insisting that she, too, is a Gucci despite his family’s misgivings. When Maurizio cuts her off, her devastation over the loss of love, yes, but also the shunting of her contributions is what compels her to have him murdered. After all, she describes herself as not ethical, but fair.
A word of caution before you watch: House of Gucci will certainly disappoint you if you walk into the theater expecting something as violent, campy, and gay as, say, Ryan Murphy’s excellent The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. Despite the often outlandish scenes—particularly from Leto—the film hardly ever swerves into camp territory, nor is it Gaga fan-service. Rather, it’s an earnest exploration into the corruption of wealth, the rotting of familial bonds, and passion. Oh, yeah, and “the family Gucci.”
Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci opens tomorrow, November 24. Get tickets here.