HOUSE OF GUCCI is a ramshackle accretion of muddled plots studded with oddly incoherent character development and performances that range from stock (Al Pacino) to enigmatic (Adam Driver). This overlong effort takes a tale of sex, money, and power among the super rich and renders it into a dull slog brightened only by Lady Gaga’s suitably outré wardrobe.
Gaga is Patrizia, the daughter of a reasonably successful trucking company owner who bumps into Maurizio (Driver), the scion of the eponymous fashion house, at a party. She mistakes him for the bartender. He, an awkward young man eager to please, corrects her but whips up the martini she ordered anyway. Soon she is stalking him at the university where he is studying law, and before you can say parental estrangement, Maurizio has defied his father, Rudolfo (Jeremy Irons), moved in with Patrizia’s family, and spends his time washing the company’s trucks while also finishing his law degree and making hanky-panky with Patrizia in said company’s accounting offices.
They marry, with only two members of his family showing up, and are living a comfortable middle-class life until Uncle Aldo Gucci (Pacino) invites them to his birthday party and then dangles the lush life in front of them. Maurizio doesn’t care, but Patrizia is another story. With her insistent nudging, Maurizio is back in the family business, reunited with his ailing father, and becoming deadly frenimies with his cousin, the family buffoon, Paolo (Jared Leto in body padding and bald cap).
That these are cut-throat types is established in no time, with Rodolfo telling Paolo exactly how ridiculous he is, and Paolo taking his anger out in a most earthy fashion on one of Rudolfo’s iconic silk scarves. That Patrizia and Maurizio are drifting apart is less explicit until and blonde Brit and old friend Jenny (Florence Andrew) skis back into Maurizio’s life after he takes it on the lam to Switzerland when the finance police come calling.
The outline of familial machinations, personal and professional, are ticked off in chronological order, but it is a display of shadow puppets with no depth. Is Patrizia actually as smart as some people, including she herself, think she is? She’s the one who think that the brand’s cheap knock-offs are a problem and isn’t at all certain about company lawyer Jack Huston’s motives. Is Uncle Aldo a business genius for slapping the name Gucci on affordable knick-knacks? Is Maurizio a victim of whomever catches his attention, and his hormones? Driver plays him as a very nice guy until he isn’t. Gaga is a pillar of feminine power until she isn’t. And the whole subplot involving a psychic, played with deadpan dullness by Salma Hayak, is little more than an excruciating device for externalizing Patizia’s inner life when it should have been a piquant descant on the follies of the rich and childish.
Director Ridley Scott takes his signature approach of laconic camera work and a muted palette that serves to emphasize the vivid way Patrizia adorns herself. To her credit, Gaga is not out-acted by her wardrobe, though her emphatic thespian efforts fail to ignite what must be a truly intriguing character. There is, however, no tension, no anticipation of the many bumps and twists the Gucci’s endure and commit in the course of the film. Leto, with Paolo’s daddy issues and peculiar innocence becomes the most layered and interesting character and the only one who seems fully formed.
HOUSE OF GUCCI takes blandness to new levels as it sinks beneath its own weight. Too many false-starts on interesting ideas make it a frustrating as well as a tedious effort all around.