The Daily Gamecock

Review: 'House of Gucci' thrives on power of its movie stars

<p>Lady Gaga during arrivals at the 91st Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood &amp; Highland Center in Hollywood, California.</p>
Lady Gaga during arrivals at the 91st Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, California.

Movie: “House of Gucci”

Release Date: Nov. 24, 2021

Director: Ridley Scott

Runtime: 2 hours 37 minutes

Genre: Drama

Columnist's rating: B+

There is no director who better understands the power and charisma of movie stars than Sir Ridley Scott. The 83-year-old director’s latest outing, "House of Gucci," proves exactly that.

In today’s cultural wasteland of endless superhero movies, the costume and cape have become more important than the actual character or actor behind them. One could argue the rare exception in Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Iron Man, but there are few other examples.

Movies like "House of Gucci" spit in the face of this form of franchise moviemaking, instead prioritizing the charisma and joy of powerful performance. Performances from stars including Lady Gaga and Adam Driver grab the viewer’s attention unlike any CGI special effect. 

"House of Gucci" is sprawling and messy in the best ways. The loose plot follows Patrizia Reggiani as she marries Maurizio Gucci, only to pit him and his family members against each other for control of the fashion brand.

The changing dynamics of the family propel most of the story forward, lasting the course of two decades. Time jumps around without warning or care, and characters leave and rejoin the narrative without ceremony which makes the overall emotional effect a little dry.

This isn’t to say the film is ineffective. The story is incredibly well told with beautiful cinematography and witty dialogue that lets the characters shine.

Gaga as Patrizia is likely to garner strong attention, but Driver’s performance as Maurizio is undoubtedly the selling performance, even in the most difficult role.

In playing this character, Driver is carefully maneuvering between sympathy, with hints of weasel-like subordination for the part. It works unbelievably well. 

One note for the movie is that his performance is the only one with a consistent and strong Italian accent.

Beyond Driver's victory, Al Pacino, Jared Leto and Jeremy Irons turn in solid supporting performances, even if they feel like stunt casting. (This is mostly the case for Leto.)

Leto, as Paolo Gucci, attempts an over-the-top performance to the point where the performance almost works because of outrageous it is. Constantly bothering the other members of the family like a sad puppy, Paolo’s desperation to please his father and Maurizio is only matched by Leto’s desperation to monopolize the audience’s attention in every scene he appears.

Whether his performance is a negative or a positive on the overall viewing experience will be polarizing, but the fascinating expression was captivating throughout.

Leto's performance feels most emblematic of the film’s one core theme, the unchecked ego of all absorbing and destructive people. 

The narrative differs from the most by-the-book rise and fall stories because it’s not the nature of the lifestyle that destroys them, it’s self-inflicted pains.

Running the Gucci brand doesn’t wreck these characters in the typical way of being drugged-up and uber-wealthy. It's not the eccentric story of Jordan Belfort's demise in "The Wolf of Wall Street." It’s harder to pin down and complex, with tradition and family pride being their undoing.

This lack of conscience and distasteful character play keep the movie from feeling cliché or contrived in the best way. The movie's beating heart is clear, ugly and undeniable. 

If "House of Gucci" stands for anything, it’s that audiences should appreciate films with ambition and authentic stardom as they become a relic of the past, much like the Gucci fashion brand. 

Much like Tom Ford's revival, Gaga and Driver are a good start, but like Gucci, Hollywood needs some new blood to usher in its next age of good blockbusters.