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‘House of Gucci’ Review: Lady Gaga Rises Above a Mediocre Script

Dir. Ridley Scott — 3 Stars

By Jaden S. Thompson, Crimson Staff Writer

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At the beginning of “House of Gucci,” protagonist Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) coyly says to Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), “I want to see how this story goes.” This “story” — their love story — drives the plot of the film, and evolves from this pivotal moment into a rollercoaster of euphoric love, cutting betrayal, and intense power struggles.

Ridley Scott’s biographical drama is based on Sara Gay Forden’s 2001 book “The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed.” Patrizia, an ambitious outsider from humble roots, marries into the famous Gucci dynasty — a name “synonymous with wealth,” as she puts it in the opening narration. The film reveals how Patrizia and Maurizio’s mutual desire for power over the fashion house complicates their marriage. At 154 minutes, the film is an engrossing, if slowly paced, depiction of the chaotic intersection between family and business. Though featuring an ensemble cast of greats like Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino, it is Lady Gaga’s magnetic performance as the power hungry Patrizia that stands out and offsets some of the film’s flaws in pacing and character development.

Patrizia and Maurizio first meet at a glamorous party in 1970s Milan, where she arrives as her friend’s plus one and he was personally invited by the host. Dancing under strobe lights, Lady Gaga and Driver have an immediate natural chemistry that continues to anchor the film as their romance unfolds. They easily feed off each other’s charisma, especially in scenes depicting the honeymoon phase of their relationship. Patrizia lovingly stuffs a street vendor sandwich in Maurizio’s face or pulls him fully clothed into the bath with her: awkward yet strangely endearing moments that charm audiences and allow them to buy into their love story. This makes it all the more dramatic when their marriage begins to unravel, leading up to an unexpected — though dragged-out — ending.

The tension between the couple stems from Patrizia’s attempts to manipulate Gucci family members so that Maurizio can control the company. Al Pacino, of course, fits in seamlessly as Aldo, Maurizio’s uncle who owns part of Gucci and wants to maximize profits even if it costs the brand its integrity. His son Paolo, played by an unrecognizable Jared Leto, is the joke of the family, never taken seriously and constantly on the receiving end of insults. With Leto’s hokey Italian accent and played-up goofy mannerisms, he imbues the film with an appreciated sense of levity but ultimately makes Paolo into more of a caricature than a real person.

The film gets a bit lost in its portrayals of complicated business deals and legal troubles, many of which aren’t thoroughly explained or entirely necessary to the plot — some of the infighting at Gucci about ownership of shares and copyright is ultimately more confusing than interesting. Nevertheless, the ever-shifting power dynamics within the family are portrayed with discernible authenticity by the superbly talented cast; even when their Italian accents aren’t necessarily believable, their tense or tender interactions resemble that of a real and relatable family.

Lady Gaga, in only her second leading role in a feature film, has proven herself a force to be reckoned with. She is able to command the screen with only her eyes, emoting jealousy, longing, or contempt with her unflinching gaze. Gaga, who put in months of research for this role, told NPR, “I read and looked at everything I could possibly watch to understand her.” With her layered, emotionally charged portrayal of the complicated Patrizia, it’s easy to see how her efforts paid off.

At times funny, at times nerve-racking, “House of Gucci” is a wild ride, especially for those who don’t already know the story of the Gucci family. Compared to his classics like “Alien” or “Thelma and Louise,” it might not be Ridley Scott’s most memorable film, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

—Staff writer Jaden S. Thompson can be reached at jaden.thompson@thecrimson.com.

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