Patrizia Gucci (née Reggiani) is not your ordinary gold digger—she’s not happy to just be a gorgeous trophy wife with one slice of the cake to her name. She wants to be the one in charge of baking the cake from start to finish, never mind the complete lack of experience in the kitchen. An accountant for her father’s trucking business, Patrizia (Lady Gaga going full-metal-jacket Italian) shrewdly schemes her way into a romantic relationship, and eventually a marriage, with Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), by being in the right places at the right times. Maurizio’s widowed father, Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons, with a John Waters pencil stache), sees through Patrizia’s game after one mildly awkward lunch, but even he couldn’t have foreseen exactly how far she would take it. Rodolfo cuts off his relationship with Maurizio over his relationship with Patrizia, but that doesn’t stop her from shimmying her way into the family through Rodolfo’s brother, Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino), who of course has his own agenda. Aldo and Patrizia bond over their shared love of chasing profit, while Maurizio is less interested in the Gucci glory, in favor of studying the law. Patrizia then asserts herself into a power position, pitting father against son, cousin against cousin, Gucci against Gucci.
When it comes to wives of white collar criminals, Patrizia is in a league of her own, the anti-Kay Adams; rather than shepherd her husband away from the illicit family business in an effort to save him, as Kay does, Patrizia pushes Maurizio head first into the deep end in an effort to advance her own position, luring him into dirtier and dirtier tricks until he finally snaps. It’s difficult to imagine Maurizio closing the door on Patrizia during a business meeting á la THE GODFATHER without Patrizia going absolutely apeshit. She makes Karen of GOODFELLAS infamy look like a mouse. Patrizia’s total confidence in her own unwavering drive for more—more money, more status, more power—is what makes her such an interesting character to watch.
It doesn’t occur to Patrizia that her ruthlessness might rub off on Maurizio until it’s too late, and he either stabs her in the back for another woman, or finally pushes the wool of her ruse out of his eyes, depending on your perspective. You’d have to be a sucker to buy that Patrizia was after anything but Maurizio’s family name, especially his heart, or that she was doing it all in order to protect her daughter, but that isn’t to say that Maurizio was a perfect saint, either. If director Ridley Scott had made this film in the ecstatic girlboss era of 2011-2016, when audiences were a lot more likely to support a “problematic” female lead in the name of feminism, then maybe HOUSE OF GUCCI would have been better received.
Scott’s artistic interest in the morally bankrupt inner lives of ungodly rich families who cannibalize each other in their endless quest for power was also apparent in 2017’s ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD. That film is best known for successfully pulling off the last-minute recasting of Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer due to Spacey’s sexual misconduct allegations, but it’s also an apt examination into the mechanics of the Gettys, one of world’s wealthiest families. When oil billionaire tycoon J. Paul Getty refuses to pay the ransom for his kidnapped 16 year old grandson in 1973 Rome, his daughter Gail, played by Michelle Williams, must find a way to save her son. HOUSE OF GUCCI continues to pull at similar threads that Scott unraveled with ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD—what makes a person with a totally unchecked drive for a bottomless bank account tick, and why are we all so obsessed with watching them tear each other apart? That is, those of us who aren’t compelled to join their quarrels for our own chance at the honey pot. Gail must battle with senior members of the Getty family, just as Patrizia battles the Guccis, but she does so to rescue her kidnapped son, not to buy herself more designer apparel.
Visually and aurally, HOUSE OF GUCCI is one of the most bland movies of the year, when it could have been one of the most electrifying. I understand that the Gucci brand is known for its understated colors, but does that mean the entire film should be color graded to look like it could fit in the same universe as THE LAST DUEL? The dull greys and muted blues evoke very little other than drab boredom, which persists throughout the entire runtime. Despite taking place in a location and time with an incredibly vibrant music scene, the film’s soundtrack is not much better than a generic disco playlist made by the most uninteresting Urban Outfitters social media manager in America. I have late-70s icons Debbie Harry and Donna Summer on my moodboards as much as the next basic bitch, but, please, can we all agree to let songs like “Heart of Glass” and “Bad Girls” rest for a few years? How difficult would it have been to have done at least one Italo-disco Google search, instead of falling back on the same tired American hits we’ve all heard a thousand times?
HOUSE OF GUCCI is too corporate, lifeless, and cynical to be camp—artificial performances from Jared Leto and Lady Gaga might be theatrical, and I personally found them to be the most engaging elements of the film, but they don’t make the film as a whole camp. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject by any means, but I’m also not blind to the fact that they weren’t able to land on either irony or sincerity—to quote from Susan Sontag’s Notes on Camp, “camp is either completely naive or else wholly conscious (when one plays with being campy),” and HOUSE OF GUCCI is neither. The fact that so many people seem to walk out of this movie using the word “weird” to describe it is confusing, if not a little bit alarming.