Elegant and Fascinating
Those of you who know the name Gucci only through fashion magazines and fancy stores may be surprised when you see the fascinating new film House of Gucci from director Ridley Scott. The road to becoming a great, world-wide fashion house and purveyor of $3,000 handbags did not happen in the usual way.
Entering the picture is one Patrizia Reggiani, an ambitious Italian girl who was not from society, but the spawn of a working-class man who owned a grimy trucking firm. Patrizia was a beautiful girl, and smart as well. She was definitely one who knew where and what she wanted in her life. It was not to be a dispatcher for her dad’s trucking firm, or to work in a trailer in a dirt lot.
Lady Gaga does a sensational job of portraying the ambitious young lady. She did her homework, studied the real woman’s speech cadence and accent, and reproduces an uncanny portrait of the future murderess. She is not at all the usual picture of an Italian woman in films. She does not wear a soiled housedress, put her hair up in a bun, or wield a wooden spoon while pouring over a hot pot of boiling spaghetti. No, no, that is not Patrizia. She has style, she has panache, she has plans. Are they evil plans? Perhaps. We shall see.
Maurizio Gucci, a young man in line to take over the business at the appropriate time, is played gallantly by the wonderful Adam Driver. Although Driver’s ethnicity includes Dutch, Scottish, and German, he is definitely not an Italian. But the former Marine from San Diego manages to possess enough natural charm to give a good impression of the young Gucci. Maurizio is more bookish and gentle and not that interested in the family business.
The Gucci empire is grasped with an iron hand by old man Rodolfo Gucci, played elegantly by Jeremy Irons. He is Maurizio’s father and has no intention of letting go of the reins, at least not yet. The other family member with a tight grasp on the business is the former Godfather gangster, Al Pacino, as Uncle Aldo. This time out he’s not a gangster, but he is in charge of the business.
Jared Leto appears totally unrecognizable in the film. He plays Al Pacino’s dim bulb son whose switch has been turned off. He has aspirations to design clothes for the business. Pacino says “He’s an idiot, but he’s my idiot.” Leto steals every scene he is in and may be a contender for an Oscar® as Best Supporting Actor. He previously won the Oscar® for Dallas Buyer’s Club in 2013 for playing in drag.
The Gucci brand has become somewhat stodgy and dated. After getting her hooks into Maurizio by marrying him, she encourages him to help bring the brand into a more fashionable and up-to- date look. Her ambition rises up like a lion looking over a tasty snack. Although he is reluctant to get involved in the business, they eventually hire young designer Tom Ford, who is fresh off the farm in Texas, to whip the Gucci fashions from 1990-2004 into something resembling an up-to=date look. He is a sensational designer and succeeds. Needless to say, he went on to bigger things.
Patrizia’s goading and pushing and nagging took its toll on poor Maurizio. He escapes her grasp and falls into the arms of blonde Paola Franchi (played by French star Camille Cottin). She manages to unfreeze his assets at a ski resort. It was like “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” that gave him the idea to dump Patrizia. This, naturally, infuriated the hotblooded, grasping Italian.
Enter Salma Hayak in a crazy-woman part as a swami, or fortune teller. Hayak’s hairdresser sabotaged her and frizzed her tresses by plugging her fingers into an electric socket. Salma is nuts but grabs Patrizia’s attention. and they plot to show Maurizio his wayward ways with the French chantoosie just won’t go unnoticed. Salma’s maniacal personality obviously knows two goons who will rub out Maurizio better than the Mafia can.
This is all a true story and was a sensation at the time. Poor Lady Gaga gets into a mess as Patrizia and can’t sing her way out of prison. She can sing like a canary, but it does no good.
Production values are tops from production designer Arthur Max. Costumes are designed by Janty Yates, with quick glances of the real fashion designs of the day. Director Ridley Scott has created an elegant film while guiding his cast to outstanding performances.
(Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, BRON Studios, Scott Free Productions. Rated “R” for language, some sexual content, and brief nudity and violence.)