Review: Ridley Scott's 'House of Gucci' is a Rollicking True-Crime Tale

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 23, 2021
Originally published on November 22, 2021

Lady Gaga stars as Patrizia Reggiani in 'House of Gucci'
Lady Gaga stars as Patrizia Reggiani in 'House of Gucci'  (Source:MGM UA)

We're in the prestige season of Hollywood filmmaking, where every studio is vying for the top spot at awards shows with the kind of froth that appeals to a wide, varied audience. As if heralded by the gods to deliver that froth in the slickest way possible, in walks Ridley Scott's "House of Gucci," a genuinely good true-crime tale bolstered by the filmmaker's mastery of drama and a slew of grade-A performances from Lady Gaga, Al Pacino, and Adam Driver.

Although the overall film is slightly marred by its struggle to find its footing amongst many narrative threads running in parallel, the 157-minute runtime flies by. Scott guides the script handedly, with an emphasis on Gaga's Patrizia Reggiani, a woman usually depicted as a ladder-climbing murderer who was trying to assert control. Here, though, we're given the proper depth for her motivations without softening the violent act. It all adds up to a rollicking good time that's easily digestible and talked about after a large Thanksgiving meal.

"House of Gucci" depicts the goings-on of the Gucci family in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. Such a long time gap is characterized by Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and her relationship with Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), one of the heirs to the illustrious Gucci brand and fortune. When Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino) encourages the mild-mannered Maurizio to enter into the family business, Patrizia aids and abets Maurizio's rise to power within the company. But when Maurizio grows distant over the years and inevitably leaves Patrizia, that doesn't mark the end of their relationship; Patrizia still feels that both the Gucci brand and Maurizio owe their success partially to her involvement in the business, thus creating drama.

For a film so willingly loose-handed in its control of the central performances, it's interesting to see the kind of life that Driver, Gaga, and Pacino give their respective characters, Driver being the calmer and more calculated of the bunch, with a burgeoning pride that matches Maurizio and provides a worthy foil to the more provocative and prouder Patrizia. But where I think the film gains from having a murderer's row of talented actors is with Pacino, who is obviously no stranger to the kind of power dynamics inherent in Italian families. Pacino's Aldo is all bluster and bombast until his major humbling, and this lines up remarkably well with Maurizio's rise to power. As one man rises, another falls. And a woman watches as she is slowly negotiated out of any power.

As for Jared Leto and his depiction of Paolo Gucci, Aldo's dim-witted but voracious son, let's just say that while playing for theatricality works in Gaga and Pacino's hands, it's not so much the case with Leto — although this is certainly not the worst we've seen from the actor of late. His goofy presence lends the story direct comedy when much of the humor is situational or ironic. This might be one of the few situations where a subpar performance actually enlivens things a bit, by positioning Leto against Gaga and Driver. It's a hoot to watch the three fill the screen and bounce off of each other.

But where does "House of Gucci" fall in terms of camp? While the presence and performance of Gaga, as well as the sweep of Scott's direction, certainly embellishes things to near-camp levels, it becomes abundantly clear that the film is far more occupied with detailing the creation and destruction of power structures. The story doesn't mince words about the dirty dealings and madness that Gucci instilled in its voracious fanbase. There're still rich, abusive people at the helm, even when the power shifts.

This holiday season, "House of Gucci" will do more than satisfy your need for popcorn-chomping fun. It's rather comforting to see someone like Ridley Scott — now at the ripe age of 83 — still wringing decent scripts for all their dramatic worth. Few filmmakers have the kind of unique talent that Scott still offers. With all these unwieldy studio films being characterized by their lack of focus, Scott proves once again how enlivening grand-scale dramas can be.


"House of Gucci" arrives in theaters Nov. 24.