'House of Gucci' review: A highly entertaining tale of high fashion
Lady Gaga leads knockout cast in fall's most stylish drama.
Lather up, because "House of Gucci" is a soapy, immensely watchable tale of high fashion and high crime, with a handful of big-time actors tossing their hands in the air and straight up going for it.
Director Ridley Scott's based-on-true-events tale of the familial infighting and, well, murder that tore apart the fashion house manages to be fun and spirited without taking itself too seriously. It gets down and dirty, but still manages to maintain an air of dignity about itself.
Lady Gaga leads the cast as Patrizia Reggiani, a spunky working class firecracker who romances Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) and works her way into the Gucci family dynasty.
Jeremy Irons, who is now 73 years old but who seems to have been the same age for at least the last two decades, has his best role in years as Rodolfo Gucci, the former screen star who heads up the Gucci brand and creates one of its most famous scarves as a gift to Grace Kelly.
Al Pacino is Aldo Gucci, Rodolfo's brother and another partner in the family business, and a completely out of his mind Jared Leto is Paolo Gucci, son of Aldo, and a sweet, hapless would-be heir to the family fortune.
Scott — working from a script by Becky Johnston ("The Prince of Tides") and Roberto Bentivegna, based on Sara Gay Forden's "The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed" — fashions "Gucci" as a slick, stylish drama, chiefly about Patrizia's romance with Maurizio, with the family biz as an enticing backdrop.
Gaga, in her first screen role since "A Star is Born," packs a mighty punch, playing Patrizia as a spitfire who claws her way into an empire and who turns scorned when she finds herself on the outs. Driver is a bit stiff, the straight man in a cast where no choice is too outsize, and he winds up feeling like an outsider.
Irons and Pacino both know they have a juicy steak in front of them, and they tear into it with abandon.
But it's Leto, somehow still recognizable even under a fat suit and a mountain of makeup, who becomes the sad soul of the movie.
His over-the-top accent is at times comical — he's like a combination of Chef Boyardee and Mario's evil twin, Wario — but his tragic story (he's ridiculed, rightly so, for combining pastels and browns in his design mock-ups) and his inability to connect with his family cuts through the high gloss of the rest of the story around him.
Leto, already an Oscar winner for his role as a trans woman in "Dallas Buyer's Club," is consistently one of Hollywood's most daring and exciting actors, and he should find himself in the Oscar mix once again for his role here.
"House of Gucci" has a lively soundtrack (with hits from Donna Summer, David Bowie, Blondie, Eurythmics and more), a keen sense of visual style and fashionable looks to die for.
Might it have been more effective as a mini-series drawn out on Netflix or HBO? It's a question that should be posed of most movies these days — especially one as seemingly made for the Ryan Murphy treatment as this — and the answer here is possibly, which would have given Patrizia's transformation from a jilted lover to someone willing to contract out a murder more weight and more room to breathe. (Salma Hayek, as Patrizia's psychic and confidant Giuseppina Auriemma, is amusing even if her character is underwritten.)
But "House of Gucci" is big and bold, a colorful romp that knows when it comes to fashion, the most important rule is to look good no matter what. Consider that test passed with flying colors.
'House of Gucci'
Rated R: for language, some sexual content, and brief nudity and violence
Running time: 158 minutes