As empty as a pleather knockoff clutch and as pointless as a pasta pencil, The House of Gucci is a silly charade that makes Chef Boyardee and the Super Mario Brothers seem like nuanced Italian characters. At least, director Ridley Scott’s second terrible, horrible, no good, very bad movie of the year isn’t his worst of 2021? That tells you all you need to know about The Last Duel.
Positioned as a blend between The Godfather and The Devil Wears Prada, Gucci’s excess and mess has been explained away as intentional. Because people simply cannot stop finding ways to give old white “auteurs” the benefit of the doubt. The plain truth is, it is just straight-up bad. And dumb. And long. Any combo of two of those can work but hitting that trifecta wins you a cinematic fart.
Lady Gaga’s eyeballs star as Patrizia Reggiani, while the rest of her body is also present. When Patrizia meets Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at a party, she sees the bespectacled gentle giant as her ticket to a better life. The two begin immediately awkwardly flirting, as though they were two aliens trapped in human bodies, simulating a mating ritual they read about on the Planet Klorp. Before long, and that’s not a phrase said often about a 160-minute-long movie, the pair announce their intent to do the marriage mambo. This infuriates the Gucci patriarch, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), who exiles his only son from the family business.
Said business is run by Rodolfo and his brother, Aldo (Al Pacino). They can’t agree on how to run the company any more than Irons or Pacino can agree what an Italian accent should sound like. Aldo also has his struggles with his son, Paolo (Jared Leto), but not as much as those of us who have to live on the same planet at the same time as Jared Leto. Patrizia sees an opening, and with the advice of a TV psychic (Salma Hayek), she tries to Iago her hubby into splintering the family and claiming the Gucci throne.
That sounds kind of interesting, right? Maybe that’s because the synopsis leaves out all the thrilling discussions of tax evasion, endless scenes of Gaga’s contortionist eyebrows, and wildly disconnected performances. Gaga, Pacino, and Leto are acting in three wholly different movies, none of them any good, all of them feeling fueled by old-school American anti-Italian racism. Driver is quietly spectacular again, even if his third-act shift from dopey boob to craven cretin comes out of nowhere.
That’s the thing about House of Gucci: Despite its bloated, boring length, it glosses over so much. It skips or infers hugely important elements and more fascinating story elements in favor of drone shots of ski resorts and close-ups of Leto’s distracting makeup job. No matter how much Gaga screams and gesticulates, the dissolution of Patrizia and Maurizio’s partnership doesn’t feel like a payoff for scenes well planned. The whole thing plods and ambles to a weirdly rushed ending.
And as with The Last Duel, a question of purpose hangs over the whole thing. If this is supposed to be a mafia mockery, a Goodfellas goosing, why not lean harder into the satire? If it was intended as a salacious true crime spectacle, why toss the climax out like yesterday’s half-eaten lasagna? If this was a takedown of privilege, why does the filmmaking fetishize it so much? And the most important question: Why Jared Leto?
Grade = D+
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Rohan Naahar at The Indian Express says “Leto’s performance robs Paolo of any sympathy, and snatches away the only shot that House of Gucci had at connecting with the audience. In a sea of monsters, Paolo was merely a simpleton gasping for breath. And perhaps it’s a fitting conclusion to his tragic story that he has been immortalised by an actor famous for sucking the joy out of the screen every time he appears on it.”
Kelechi Ehenulo at Set the Tape says “watching House of Gucci is like stepping into a fever dream. You laugh at the absurdity as Scott dials up the Italian soap opera gloss, atrocious accents, and caricature eccentricities to eleven.”
Kristy Puchko at Mashable says “House of Gucci is a swooning, snarling, and knowingly outlandish film that invites audiences into the glorious rush of excess and its evils. As packed with stars as it is soap-operatic moments and sharp style, it’s gorgeous, glamorous, and totally Gaga.”