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Movie Review: House of Gucci

This week for “Close-Up with Camenker”,  Zach reviews . . . House of Gucci! (December 17, 2021)

Click here for the blurb and showtimes of HOUSE OF GUCCI!

Opulent. Ostentatious. Ornate.

All three of these words embody the spirit of the Gucci fashion dynasty, which is the subject of Ridley Scott’s latest film. Highly anticipated by many and featuring an all-star cast of award-winning performers of all ages, HOUSE OF GUCCI has understandably been met with a mix of thoughts and feelings.

Many question why this film is being made now. Some are excited to see the glitz and glamour, as well as the drama and turmoil, unfold.
For me, the film, at essence, is a time capsule of recent decades; a study of how a major company came about through eccentricity and look. I went into the picture with my own mix of feelings and expectations and walked out in roughly the same state.

As someone who was quite young when the major events of the Gucci downfall took place and one who only knew the story at a basic level, there were some elements of surprise that did sit well with me and make the film intriguing. I would recommend going into the film with little background on the subject save for the basics as it makes for a more enjoyable experience.

The film opens in 1978, at which point Maurizio Gucci is a young wannabe lawyer living in the shadow of his family’s company and his fading film star father’s final years. Upon meeting Patrizia Reggiani, the daughter of a successful small businessman who seems to have humble aspirations, and falling in love, the chaos and madness is born.


Gucci and Reggiani are played brilliantly by the multitalented Adam Driver and Lady Gaga, who are each rising stars in the world of cinema in their own way. Driver proves his knack for versatility yet again as he crafts the intricacies of Maurizio Gucci, a subtle man who appears to have little vested in his family’s business at the get-go. Were it not for his highly recognizable face, which is still easy to distinguish despite heavy make-up, I would not know that I was watching the same man from BLACKKKLANSMAN.

Gaga mesmerizes as Patrizia, transforming completely into this fascinating character with a truly deep exploration of emotions. Her accent is delightful and the mannerisms she conveys in the character also take the audience on an adventure, making her nearly unrecognizable as well.
Both Driver and Gaga become their characters, which are each so rich with development and detail, albeit in scattered manners at times due to the amount covered over a long period of years. Each of them proves that one really can become another individual on the screen and that you don’t have to be Italian to play an Italian, which can be applied to many other scenarios!

There are many scenes in which the two chew at the scenery but without the potential opulence that some may expect. In short, there is no real “over-acting” from either of them.
Jared Leto, on the other hand, does overdo it as Maurizio’s cousin Paolo, the family embarrassment who can’t seem to get out of his own way. Leto has taken on the call to be overdramatic in recent roles, last year’s THE LITTLE THINGS coming to mind. While it works in part for the character here, I ultimately sense that he creates a caricature of a family member who was probably misunderstood and lost along the way. He is getting a lot of praise for his performance and will likely pick up some more nominations along the awards circuit, though I do not think it’s especially justified. It’s another case of the make-up doing a lot of the acting.

Jeremy Irons, however, is the film’s best supporting actor in my book. While he is not in all that much of the over two-and-a-half hour running time, his handful of scenes are memorable and fun, a true example of his talent. As Rodolfo Gucci, Maurizio’s aging father, we catch a glimpse into a man who is far beyond his swan song and dwells in the past. A former movie star who had many hits during what the US would have deemed the “Studio Era,” Rodolfo is a symbol of loneliness and isolation, a lost soul who misses the opulence of making movies. Never having embraced the opulence of his family company, he dwells on what his life once was as a star, much in the same way that Gloria Swanson does in SUNSET BOULEVARD. It’s hard not to see a bit of Norma Desmond in him and I swear he looks like an older version of silent film star Douglas Fairbanks! It’s a joy to see Irons and Al Pacino, who plays his brother Aldo and still has the chops galore, sharing the screen with some neophytes and rising stars.

Performances aside, the film is at its best with the overall “look.” The costuming and make-up are not only paramount to the success, but also to telling the story and developing characters. Both are so well executed that it enhances the film tremendously.

Unfortunately, as with many movies of this type, HOUSE OF GUCCI tries to do so much and ultimately remains imbalanced. The first hour is so vested in the early days that the remaining hour and a half, which can lag quite a bit at points, rushes certain pieces. It kind of makes you question what Ridley Scott’s point was in making the film. Is he looking to provide some backstory and then a quick recap of what went down at the height of the turmoil? Is he choosing to stab the Gucci family in the eye by highlighting their wrongdoings and how they lost what could have been a very successful business that the family still was involved in today?

I don’t know the answer and while I really don’t need to know to ultimately evaluate the film as “good” in my book, I can’t help but crave a bit more clarity or less disarray. But then again… the Gucci dynasty only ended in disarray, so why not end the film in the same way?

Well worth the viewing nonetheless… catch it at Red River in the coming week!

Stay tuned for Volume XIV of “Close-Up with Camenker,” which will return on Friday, December 31 and will ring in the New Year with my thoughts on NIGHTMARE ALLEY.


Click here to learn more about Zach Camenker!

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