Review: An Epic yet Shallow Production, House of Gucci Handily Captures the Era—and the Family Dysfunction

It’s either a crime drama, a comedic commentary about the filthy rich, or an anarchic takedown of the ruling classes by the working class. Or a bloated combination of the three. However you ingest director Ridley Scott’s second film of the year (after The Last Duel), House of Gucci, there are likely going to be actors you love and ones you loathe, as well as an overwhelming sensation that the movie will never end.

House of Gucci Image courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Inc

Based on the book by Sara Gay Forden (and adapted by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna), House of Gucci is actually the story of Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), who came from humble beginnings working for her father's trucking company and met Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) when he was studying to be a lawyer and had no real interest in fashion, let alone the dynasty that bears his family name. To him, she was exciting and outgoing, while he was shy and overly trusting. When he finally brings Patrizia home to meet his father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), who owns 50 percent of Gucci, his negative response to her is inevitable but it fuels something in Maurizio that not only makes him a better lawyer but also makes his resolve to learn and take part in the business rock solid.

After getting married (his side of the aisle is practically empty), the couple establish a bond with Maurizio’s uncle, Aldo (Al Pacino), who owns the company’s other 50 percent and begins to see Maurizio as the son he never had. Which is amusing because he actually has an idiot son in Paolo (an unrecognizable Jared Leto), who fancies himself a designer even though his works are universally considered garbage. It’s no coincidence that Aldo’s interest in Maurizio enrages Rodolfo, a fact that pleases Aldo a great deal. Around this time, Patrizia begins to voice her opinions about how Gucci should be run and what her and her husband’s role in the company should be, which only makes Aldo laugh and explain to her that Gucci is not a woman’s game, and that her thoughts on the company aren’t required or appreciated. This lights a fire under her to not only gain control of the company but take down her husband’s family members in the process. She is a patient woman, and when Rodolfo dies, leaving her husband in control of his 50 percent of the company shares, Patrizia begins to see her way in.

House of Gucci captures the late 1970s and beyond so convincingly that it’s easy to get lost in the immersive layers of clothes, music, production design and hair styles. One interesting, if slightly indulgent, element of the movie is Patrizia’s relationship with her psychic, Pina Auriemma (Salma Hayek), whom she became friends with and eventually ended up involving in more illicit, criminal activity. Also a major player in the Gucci empire is the one non-family member, Domenico De Sole (Jack Huston), a top financial adviser who puts Maurizio together with some investors from the Middle East at a crucial point in the company’s recovery but has his own agenda, not surprisingly.

It isn’t until the end of the film where the inner workings of Gucci begin to take center stage, particularly when Maurizio brings in an unknown American designer from Texas named Tom Ford (Reeve Carney) to put together a new collection, taking the fashion world by storm. At this point, Maurizio and Patrizia are practically at war and he begins seeing another woman, Paola Franchi (Camille Cottin, who recently made a splash in Stillwater), setting the stage for Patrizia to snap for good and plot a murder most foul.

My take on House of Gucci’s players is thus: Gaga is pretty damn remarkable, from her fiery Italian accent to her ability to transition from seductress to rage monster in the blink of an eye. Leto is a scream, even if that isn’t his intention—but I’m pretty sure it is. He knows these people are ridiculous, and he transforms himself into the crown prince of this idiots' circus. Driver is a bit of a dud here, but that’s also the character he’s playing; I think he’s doing the job he was hired to do, but it just doesn’t come off as someone I cared about when he's on screen—my eyes always drifted to something flashier in the room. Pacino is overdoing it as only Pacino can, and weirdly enough, his Italian accent sounds the most fake. I’m not entirely sure Ridley Scott set out to make a broad comedy, but that’s what his finished film is. It’s also entirely too long, at almost 160 minutes, especially when there are such obvious swaths of land that could easily have been excised and would have vastly improved the film.

Still, I found myself getting caught up in the betrayal, indulgence, backstabbing and clumsy criminal activity on display, and these are actors I rarely get tired of watching. If your curiosity gets the best of you and you find yourself slinking into your local theater to check out House of Gucci, you’ll likely enjoy yourself even if you struggle to find greater meaning in it all. Something this epic in length should mean something below the surface, shouldn't it? Maybe you’ll spot this meaning like I did, or maybe this portrait of excess, a hunger for power, and tale of jealousy will be enough for you. Whatever your taste, you’ll likely find something here for you, even if it isn’t entirely satisfying.

House of Gucci is now in theaters.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.