Somewhere between the uproarious Wolf of Wall Street and a campy episode of Dynasty, you have House of Gucci. Based on one viewing, it’s hard to say if this nearly three-hour epic is legitimately good or a guilty pleasure. It’s undeniably entertaining as hell, however. Super-sized run time aside, Ridley Scott’s film doesn’t overstay its welcome. If anything, it might’ve benefitted from being the length of a miniseries. The ending, in particular, hurries to the finish line, skipping over another chapter that could’ve filled an entire run time. Even at its most uneven, though, House of Gucci always looks so good while doing it.
Whether you think Lady Gaga’s accent sounds closer to Italian or Russian, she lights up every scene she’s in as Patrizia Reggiani. Gaga plays the socialite with the conviction of Lady Macbeth and the style of an 80s soap opera villainess. Patrizia catches the eye of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), the son of retired actor Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons). Driver gives an effectively retrained performance, keeping everything on the inside while everyone around Maurizio says precisely what’s on their minds. Rodolfo owes his fortune to the Gucci fashion brand, threatening to cut Maurizio out of his will if he marries a gold digger. Although Maurizio defies his father, he wins the approval of his uncle, Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino). Aldo treats Maurizio like the son he never had, even though he does have an “idiot” son named Paolo (Jared Leto).
In a film bound to split critics and audiences down the middle, Leto’s performance might be the most divisive. Gaining almost 70 pounds and losing his signature hippie hair, Leto continues his string of unrecognizable performances. At his best, Leto’s Paolo channels Fredo Corleone, a pathetic screw-up who comes to regret backstabbing a family member. Listening to Leto’s accent, though, it’s admittedly hard not to think of Super Mario. Then again, being the most tragic and comedic character, Leto’s go for broke approach feels appropriate. It may be over-the-top, but I won’t be complaining if Leto’s performance scores him another Oscar nomination.
However, Gaga deserves the most Oscar buzz. Gaga is given so many opportunities to chew the scenery, and while she might take a nibble here and there, she ultimately turns in a layered performance. Patrizia is a woman who wants it all: money, power, love, and a name that commands class. Once she’s had a taste of all four, she won’t settle for anything less. When Patrizia loses a fraction of what she’s sunk her nails into, revenge becomes her new priority. A psychic named Giuseppina (Salma Hayek) nudges her down this road laced in blood, but Patrizia doesn’t need a devil on her shoulder to make bad decisions.
If House of Gucci wasn’t based on actual events, you’d call the final act beyond ludicrous. As fascinating as this true story is, the ending leaves you wanting to see more of the aftermath. While the resolution only gives us the cliff notes, Gucci’s build-up is glamorous, glossy, and an all-around good time. Of all the projects in Scott’s filmography, it perhaps shares the most in common with American Gangster. It’s imperfect, but the performances are larger than life, the aesthetics are marvelously crafted, and the story is too engrossing to pass up. Gucci is also easily Scott’s funniest film since The Martian, although it shouldn’t be misconstrued as a comedy. Looking at you, Hollywood Foreign Press Association.