House of Gucci: The overly theatrical version of the Gucci fashion house’s backstory


Photo Courtesy of MGM

House of Gucci movie poster featuring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, and Al Pacino (left to right)

Neha Reddy, Staff Writer

Hollywood has a tendency to focus on the glossed up stories of the upper class, almost romanticizing the tragedy that lies beneath the name. House of Gucci is no exception. The movie, released to theaters November 24th, is a crime drama directed by Ridley Scott. Based on Sara Gay Forden’s The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, the movie depicts the real life events behind the Gucci fashion house. This is not Scott’s first rodeo and from most aspects of the film, that much is clear. He does a fantastic job with the color schemes, often rich, bright colors, meant to captivate the audience and convey the mood changes throughout the film. The costuming was perfectly tied in with the aesthetics of the movie and the time period, and served as an alternate source to understand the characters’ personalities and the way they hold themselves. Scott’s vision was to present us with the overdramatized version of this family, which he did accomplish. However, in some parts, it was way too much. While the film had many great details and features, there were definitely some aspects that could be changed that would take the movie from being a good film to a great one.

The movie starts with Patrizia Reggiani, the outgoing daughter of the owner of the trucking company, and Maurizio Gucci, the shy heir to the Gucci fashion house, meeting at a party. The two hit it off, fall madly in love and marry, despite Maurizio’s father’s concerns. Once learning about the power, money, and fame she can gain through the takeover of the Gucci fashion house, Patrizia urges Maurizio to buy out the other owners of the company, playing a character similar to Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth. Initially he agrees, but Maurizio soon realizes this is not the type of person he wants to be, and ends things with Patrizia. 

He then sets out to manage the fashion house without her and with the help of a private equity firm, Investcorp. However, Maurzio is completely new to management of such a large industry and mismanages it to the point where the equity firm buys him out, seeking to replace him with other designers he’d hired, such as Tom Ford. Once Patrizia learns of this, she flies into a frenzy, and hires assassins to take out Maurizio, causing him to be shot to death outside his house in broad daylight. The end of the film details that Patrizia, her accomplice the psychic Giuseppina Auriemma, and the assassins go to jail while the shareholders that Maurizio and Patrizia bought out now live their life in poverty. Gucci becomes acquired by the equity firm Investcorp that Maurizio worked with, and the Gucci family fashion house is a family fashion house no more as the business falls completely out of their hands.

While I thought most of the acting in the film was fantastic, I also thought some characters were written and played rather poorly. Specifically, Aldo and Paolo Gucci. The whole point of their characters seemed like a mockery of the real people behind these events, with their overexaggerated emotions and movements, acting like a clownish, cartoonish version of themselves. Even their costumes seem to demonstrate that, with costume designers putting Jared Leto in a fat suit and prosthetics for his role as Paolo Gucci. Their accents are also poured on too heavily, causing a disconnect from the film’s plot. In some scenes, Aldo’s Italian accent is too cartoonish, sounding more like a character from Mario than someone who has holdings in one of the richest fashion houses of the time. While the movie was meant to act as an overdramatized, varnished version of the events that went down, at some points it was too much, seeming more like a comedy show skit than anything else.

Tom Ford, someone who was briefly played in the film by Reeve Carney, was not a fan of this particular aspect. In an Airmail article, Ford wrote “It was hard for me to see the humor and camp in something that was so bloody. In real life, none of it was camp. It was at times absurd, but ultimately it was tragic.” Ford reminds us that the picture painted by Ridley and the actors is done in a showy manner, one that is far too exaggerated to be real and taken as the truth of what really happened.

Additionally, the pacing of the film felt too long. I often found myself exhausted with all the information I had to take in at once. The 158 minutes of run time during the movie were unquestionably long, but longer movies have been done while still being entertaining. Halfway through the film, I thought it would be over but I still had a good hour to keep watching. The movie would function much better as a TV show or a mini-series, featuring more in depth, but better paced scenes to add onto the plot. Oftentimes, the scenes that felt dragged on were not as important as the scenes that seemed to fly by too fast, skipped before the audience could even really process what just happened.

Besides the actors behind Aldo and Paolo Gucci, I believe that the acting was the best part. Lady Gaga brought life to her character, and at some points, it was hard for me to differentiate her from her on-screen counterpart. Her delivery and timing were never too much or not enough, settling in that perfect mix between sincere and comedic that the rest of the film and actors could take notes from. Additionally, Adam Driver did a great job of embodying Maurizio’s shy, nuanced character’s progression to the almost sociopathic, power-hungry one we see in the time leading up to his death.

But it wasn’t just the big characters that brought life to their characters. Salma Hayek, playing the smaller role of the psychic Giuseppina Auriemma, who fed Patrizia everything she wanted to hear, emulated the mystic, whimsical way we imagine psychics to behave to a T. Her casting was even a subtle nod to the real life “House of Gucci”, as her husband is the current owner of Gucci.

My final critique is that the film was fine, but it could be so much better. Ridley Scott fell short on this piece and the delivery of House of Gucci was lacking in some aspects compared to his other works such as The Martian. However, the movie also did some things incredibly well. In particular, Lady Gaga and Adam Driver’s performances, which captured the screen and enraptured the audience, acting as a distraction from the sluggish pacing of the film. Personally, I expected much more from the movie. House of Gucci featured big name actors such as Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Salma Hayek, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, and Jeremy Irons, so expectations for this movie were at an all time high for me. I envisioned House of Gucci to paint a different kind of story about the fashion house, one that was less Hollywood and more real-life, less soap opera and more crime drama.