There was a word I kept writing down in my notes while watching the screening of HOUSE OF GUCCI and it was…lethargic.
You would think that there could be an entertaining movie about the rise and fall of the Gucci brand; at its rise and fame, among other things, Gucci designed those really expensive designer bags that your mom always talked about that she wished she could afford. Well there was a devilish group of people behind the scenes, led by Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) who meets the very gorgeous Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) where she assimilates herself into the family, but has problems with his father (Jeremy Irons!) yet seems to get more along with his uncle (Al Pacino!) who are all corrupt in one way or another.
Much of the story unfolds in a pivotal time in Italy in the late 70s to early 80s through Patrizia’s rise to fame, yet I don’t even know if there is a decent movie that can come out of this semblance of a true story as none of the Gucci family or its close connections are really that interesting enough. You would think that different Italian generations, even in a revolutionary time frame would have some sort of entertainment value behind them, and it isn’t like there have been decades of movies and filmmakers that have tried to emulate the country and its culture. Aside from a very obvious 70’s movie that comes to mind, I also think back to a gem like THE BEST OF YOUTH (2005) that followed two different brothers through three decades of history and all of the political uprising of the eras, and yet here all of these characters in the fashion business just sit around, drink, smoke and party and talk too much about plans instead of actually doing anything.
I am shocked to note that HOUSE OF GUCCI was directed by Ridley Scott, but nowhere in the movie is any of his style, energy or any resemblance to ANY of his previous works. This looks like it could have been directed and lensed by anyone. Scott also released THE LAST DUEL a few months ago, a significantly better movie that was heavily delayed due to the pandemic. Disney sat on that movie, yet HOUSE OF GUCCI was produced during the COVID-19 pandemic and feels immediately rushed out, and it shows; gone is Scott’s visual flourish and energy and instead a lot of static, long takes and dull framing with an eerie, over-lit digital tone for its painfully long 159 minute running time. There’s even a shot in the movie where it seems like one of the crew bumped the camera to pan to another character. Or another sequence where we get a slow and protracted sequence of Maurizio escaping the police from one house…by getting on his motorcycle, crossing a border and driving to his other house in what feels like real time. Exciting.
Much of the interest in the picture will be towards the cast, especially in the casting of Lady Gaga, who is one of the main selling points. She does what she can with a pretty flimsy character and questionable accent, and she is great to look at in a large assortment of costumes and hairstyles. Yet it ends about there; Adam Driver has no chemistry on screen, Al Pacino has a few modern Pacino moments and NOT in a good way, and there’s a laughable performance by Jared Leto who once again goes too far into his roles and has far too much visual flourish playing Maurizio’s cousin Paolo.
What’s depressing the most about HOUSE OF GUCCI is that it’s an anticipated movie that is NOT a sequel, a remake, a reboot or a Marvel or DC movie and yet will pack theatres anyways; my screening last night featured a lot of unintentional laughter, people constantly getting up and walking the aisles to head to the bathroom and a general boredom as the overlong and drab sequences just played out, leading to a dull finale that just had audiences slowly sulk out as the credits played. Lethargic.
HOUSE OF GUCCI is unfortunately now playing in theatres.