Octogenarian filmmaker Ridley Scott continues his output of making smart blockbuster movies for adults, a real rarity to find in cinemas, with his second feature film of 2021 House of Gucci. This movie is an detour from the auteur who gave us Alien (1979), Gladiator (2000), and American Gangster (2007). Every so often he dabbles in feminist views as he did in his other 2021 movie The Last Duel, and has made films with comedic sensibilities like The Martian from 2015 but nothing quite as uneven and intentionally campy as House of Gucci. At least it is good to know that at age 84 Ridley Scott is still willing to experiment and try different things.
The opening shot is of a hand holding a cigarette. The camera pans up to reveal it is Adam Driver who will be one of the main characters of the film and one of the most important members of Gucci family fashion empire.The first scene introduces his character in a flash forward which ends up being one of the final moments in the picture. The first scenes right away create an accurate feel of 1978 Italy and subsequent scenes do the same for the early 1980s Italy, Switzerland, and Manhattan. The production value is top notch as is the case with all Ridley Scott films. Nobody can deny House of Gucci has outstanding costumes, set design, and cinematography. The audience is transported from the get-go. Then we meet the characters all played by some of the most talented actors of the past two generations led by pop star Lady Gaga who turns in her second tremendous leading role in a feature film. She really carries a lot of this picture and that is especially noteworthy considering her husband is the immensely skilled Adam Driver and they both share scenes with Academy Award winners Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, and Jared Leto who is unrecognizable thanks to his accent and a ton of latex. The obviously phony Italian accents are one of the first clues that this may not be the serious Oscar bait drama audiences are expecting. Lady Gaga and the rest of the cast seem to be going over the top with the stereotypes to an almost tongue-in-cheek manner making one think that this might be Ridley Scotts intention to go that route with a social commentary about the superficiality of the fashion world. Any inkling that House of Gucci was intended to be camp is answered during the moment when Lady Gaga and Adam Driver make love in a trailer. This is one of the silliest sex scenes since Elizabeth Berkley splashed around the pool in Showgirls (1995).
House of Gucci clearly has a lot of campy elements but it never goes full camp. After a series of ridiculous moments the film starts to sober up and does have a lot to say about class structure and the extreme lengths people will go to climb the social ladder. There are funny moments throughout but once the characters are established some of the campy moments disappear in favor of furthering the plot. Lady Gaga is the standout performance as a Lady MacBeth type woman that is the mastermind of all of the events that unfold in the plot. We have seen this role many times before with a female being the puppet master for all of the males surrounding her as she pulls the strings. Lady Gaga does it more than adequately rising to the occasion. She never falters even though House of Gucci has drastic tonal shifts. Eventually the Gucci family is threatened to fall into mediocrity and sadly this is the point where House of Gucci descends into mediocrity. In the latter section of of the two and a half hour plus runtime it seems like the in-joke is over and everyone stopped having fun. The camp value decreases but the film never reaches the dramatic heights it could have. The result is a mixed bag but that is probably exactly what Ridley Scott intended House of Gucci to be all along.
This is a tough call but skip House of Gucci despite its strengths and go out of your way to see Ridley Scott’s other superior 2021 movie The Last Duel.
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