“House of Gucci” is Getting More Hate Than It Deserves
Let’s all lighten up a bit.
I’ve seen a lot of interesting criticism about Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci (yes, Ridley Scott of science fiction film fame. Many are asking why, but, I mean, why not?). Both Vox and The Irish Times called the film “pointless,” the former contending that Lady Gaga’s performance alone saved the film from failure. But I disagree on a few counts.
First of all, I’m confused by the use of the term “pointless.” What does it mean, really for a story to be pointless? Do films really need to serve a purpose other than telling interesting stories? I would argue, after all, that the story of a social-climbing working class woman marrying into one of the most famous global fashion dynasties of all time and eventually orchestrating her husband’s murder…is an interesting story. In questioning the point of telling any one story, one also questions the point of telling any story ever.
And House of Gucci has more high points than just Lady Gaga, by the way. Of course, Gaga brings down the house (see what I did there?) in the film, solidifying her reputation as a serious actor and one of the best in her generation. But I also appreciated Adam Driver’s performance as Maurizio Gucci. Vox called him “the most boring person in the movie,” but I argue that his character isn’t supposed to be the one that steals the show. Adam Driver is a brilliant actor who’s already given us nuanced performances in films like Paterson (2016) and Marriage Story (2019), so I’d venture to say he knows what he’s doing. Rather than having a flat performance, he’s merely tasked here with playing a flat character. One of the biggest takeaways of House of Gucci is supposed to be that a fairly incompetent Maurizio spends his marriage being completely overshadowed and emasculated by Patrizia, and Adam Driver communicates this flawlessly.
Also, that first sex scene between him and Lady Gaga (which was unnecessarily long but transitioned brilliantly into their wedding scene) was wild. Who knew Mr. Good Soup was an absolute animal in bed?
I will admit the movie was far from perfect, though. The soundtrack was good but not great, and the cast slipped in and out of their accents to the point of absurdity. I mean, surely MGM could have afforded some quality dialect coaches? Sure, I expected Al Pacino’s accent to suck based solely on his atrocious impression of a Cuban accent in Scarface (1983), and even found his consistent shortcoming to be endearing. But Driver, Gaga, and even the supporting characters’ accents were either inconstant, not at all Italian, or, in the case of Jared Leto, more Chef Boyardee than Paolo Gucci.
The performance that drove me the craziest, though, was Catherine Walker’s impression of Anna Wintour. I recognize that the real-life Wintour is a little stiff, but Walker made her movements positively manic, and her take on Wintour’s hand motions looked like muscle spasms. The whole performance was more of a caricature than an earnest depiction, which didn’t fit in with the film’s serious tone.
Finally, I would have liked House of Gucci to show a little more of what happened to Patrizia after her husband’s murder. I realize that the movie is already long (its run-time is a whopping 2 hours and 37 minutes), but I would have sat through another 15 or 20 minutes if it meant the movie would feel more balanced. We learn so much about Patrizia, her background, her marriage, and the events leading up to the murder that it feels incongruous for the film to cut so quickly from Maurizio’s murder to Patrizia’s trial. I had so many questions! How did she get caught? Did one of her co-conspirators rat her out? Did her bizarre diary entry and unhinged behavior give her away? What happened to her daughter (she actually had two daughters in real life, but only one is represented in the film)? I shouldn’t have to hop on Google while leaving the theater in order to fill the movie’s plot holes.
Overall, though, House of Gucci, while flawed, is underrated. It is a wildly entertaining, well-made film and it’s paced well enough that it doesn’t feel like it’s three hours. Don’t go see it looking for a groundbreaking work of cinematic genius — it’s no Parasite — but go with appropriate expectations: to see an interesting story told in a gripping, entertaining way.