'House of Gucci' Review, Character by Character
The Anna Wintour is just all wrong.
I almost didn’t bother going to see House of Gucci since the internet has led me — and surely you — to believe that it is trash. Is it worth sitting in a movie theater for nearly three hours like it’s the year 2009? Before you do, buy and read the excellent book on which it is based, by Sara Gay Forden.
The film is absolutely too long and has some laughably bad moments, but I didn’t quite feel, unlike ex-Gucci designer Tom Ford, that it was something to “survive.” Then again, the portrayal of him was one of the most hilariously unfortunate parts of the movie, so in addition to being burdened with unique knowledge of the source material, he had to endure watching a counterfeit version of himself. I’d be less than enthusiastic as well if I were seen as one of the sexiest people on the face of the planet and the Ridley Scott version of me was a freshly waxed-looking man child whose open shirt was wearing him instead of the other way around.
This is where the movie, like so many depictions of fashion in film and television, fails. Where it succeeds is in scenes that concern the Succesion-esque drama of a wealthy family instead of what certain aspects of the fashion world are really like.
Documentaries aside, fashion is seldom captured for film or television with much accuracy. That doesn’t mean that these depictions are bad in and of themselves. The Devil Wears Prada is a great movie even though, the New York Times reported at the time, “Andy's swag-laden trip to the ball has about as much relation to reality as New York City does to Kankakee,” going on to accuse Andy of being “upholstered to the collarbone in a doubled-breasted Chanel jacket.” The show Ugly Betty was wildly popular and won awards despite presenting a totally unrealistic version of a fashion magazine. But people watch these things for the same reason they used to read magazines: to escape. If you can get through the first 50 minutes of the movie (the total run time is a rude two hours thirty eight minutes), House of Gucci starts to feel like an escape. You’re at least getting gorgeous sweeping shots of Lake Como, which, in the era of Omicron, is something?
Here, a character by character review.
Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci
From the opening scene of a fluffy-haired Driver as Maurizio Gucci, we’re made to understand that this is a serious, cinematic, award-season movie.
Then, everyone starts talking.
Driver’s Italian accent sounded the most phoned-in. I am not, however, a great fan of Driver, who will forever be the person who walked out of an interview with national treasure Terry Gross. His performance is a bread basket in this film — I can really take it or leave it. Having been semi-disowned by his father Rodolfo (played by Jeremy Irons) for dating Gaga’s character Patrizia Reggiani, Maurizio goes to work at Patrizia’s dad’s truck company. He has jackhammer sex with Patrizia during a break. There is a ridiculous scene where we witness Driver having a playful hose fight with another worker while washing a truck, which is one orange mocha frappuccino away from being a Zoolander remake. This is to show, I guess, how carefree a life without money can be? Getting laid during your 9 to 5 while never having to touch a piece of paper? He could reside in the only penthouse in Milan with a pool, or be screwing his girlfriend in a trailer between washing semis, and Maurizio says he’s the happiest he’s been in his life doing the latter.
But is he? Patrizia is here to remind him that, actually, lots of money is better than this, and one shouldn’t go near coveralls unless they are for skiing in St. Moritz.
Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani
Patrizia doesn’t come from money, doesn’t like to read, and can’t tell the difference between a Picasso and a Klimt [insert rich person laugh]. She is not in this relationship for her man’s full head of bouncy hair or for love. She ingratiates herself with Maurizio’s uncle, Aldo Gucci, and manages to seduce him into giving her some free Gucci swag. She then plays a key role in sending him to prison for fraud and tax evasion, setting her husband up to take over the company.
The closer she gets to the top, the flashier her clothes get, and the nuttier she seems. Intoxicated by her lavish life, she does things like drag a clothed Maurizio into her full bathtub. It is while wearing full gold what I think was chainmail that she tells Maurizio of his family, in a moment that gave me chills, “It’s time to take out the trash.”
Her accent is ridiculous, but consistently so, and Gaga is overall just fantastic. Hearing her say “strudel” in that accent is one of the singular joys of the viewing experience. After watching her in this movie, you too will fantasize about going home and side-lying on your couch in heels, a tight dress, and heavy makeup, holding a full martini. Patrizia lives on the edge in many ways.
Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci
Leto’s character is insufferable. But this is Jared Leto, beloved actor and actual Gucci model, how could this be? you ask. He spends a good part of his scenes in equal parts spectacular and depressing eighties windbreaker tracksuits. Recognizable only by his eyes, Leto apparently spent three and a half hours each day in makeup, getting his fat suit applied. Masking his signature luscious locks alone took an hour and a half each day, the prosthetics designer Göran Lundström told Variety. Maybe that’s why his Paolo character is so whiny and over-acted? Because he was 75 percent plastic and therefore, like, hot?
Jeremy Irons as Rodolfo Gucci
Irons — again with a different accent from everyone else — delivers one of the best performances. There is a fantastic scene where Plastic Paolo comes to visit him to show him some sketches of a Cuba-inspired collection, and Rodolfo scolds him for showing browns with pastels. “You must not show these to anyone,” he tells his nephew. He delivers a great monologue with lines that will resonate with anyone working in a creative industry, like, “Hacks run around shouting their ideas… blind to their own mediocrity.” Then he dies, making way for Maurizio and Patrizia.
Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci
Pacino’s character is over-the-top but tolerably so. Aldo’s real-life daughter called his performance “shameful, because he doesn't resemble him at all,” taking particular issue with his physical appearance, which she called, “fat, short, with sideburns, really ugly." To which Ridley Scott retorted on the Total Film podcast: “[F]rankly, how could they be better represented than by Al Pacino? Excuse me! You probably have the best actors in the world, you should be so fucking lucky.” That’s cute, Ridley Scott. People don’t want the world’s best actors playing them — they want perfect-looking models that may or may not bear any physical resemblance to them.
Salma Hayek as Pina
Hayek plays the psychic Patrizia turns to for life-coaching, Taro card-reading, and evil spell-casting (Maurizio leaves her for someone else and as we all know, divorce gets ugly). There is perhaps an under-explored plot line about how what Patrizia is doing to Maurizio mirrors what Pina is doing to Patrizia, suckling at her financial teat with a certain sorcery. But if you’re seeing this movie at this juncture, you already know it’s a bunch of random disconnected threads, and will likely easily overlook this.
There are two important things about Hayek in this film. One, if you didn’t need a clearer signal this whole thing is just one big ingenious ad for the Gucci brand, she’s married to Francois-Henri Pinault, the owner of Gucci. Two, the whole cause for the drama over Lady Gaga’s accent — which she told British Vogue she developed for a year and a half — was Hayek’s Italian dialect coach, actress Francesca De Martini. She’s the one who told the Daily Beast, “I feel bad saying this, but her accent is not exactly an Italian accent, it sounds more Russian.”
Catherine Walker as Anna Wintour
There’s one short scene with Anna Wintour where Maurizio essentially pitches Gucci to her in an office, and an André Leon Talley-like figure sits nearby. As Wintour’s biographer, I have unique insight into this portrayal being so completely wrong, from the way she holds her foot while she’s sitting in a chair to the way she speaks and the things she says. But I’m not sure many fashion people/September Issue fanatics need my unique knowledge of her to come to that conclusion.
Ok so, should you see it in the theater or wait?
Honestly, if you just catch it on a plane one day, you’ll be fine. And again, buy the book! (Always buy the book.)
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