You simply can’t look away from director Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” which shows the backstabbing dressed in luxury and dripping in privilege found inside the European, old-world fashion dynasty. The marketing materials are very clear that this is “based on a scandal” and at its heart, this is a docudrama filled with a checklist of ambitious types who seem to think that they will live forever.
“House of Gucci” is about a real family dynasty and a very sophisticated group that crave power and in building their business empire inside this delicate family structure character flaws are laid bare. The year is 1978, and Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) is living that Italian, middle-class life, working at her father’s trucking company in Milan but it is clear that she wants more out of her life. At a splashy party thrown at an aristocrat’s mansion, she meets Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), a nerdy type sporting oversized glasses, and once she hears his last name—Gucci—he suddenly becomes an interesting option. When we meet Maurizio he has no interest in working in the family business and is pursuing law at the university where Patrizia arranges a “chance” meeting.
Her “stalking” works and he finally introduces her to his father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) who is powerful, elegant, formidable, and the co-owner and patriarch of the Gucci brand. Immediately he is upset that his son would marry someone whom he feels is socially beneath him. But Maurizio stands by her, a trait that brings admiration in its way. And when he marries Patrizia his father cuts him out of the family fortune. The couple settle into their normal lives, have a daughter, and interact with the other members of the Gucci clan, including Aldo (Al Pacino), Rodolfo’s brother and the co-owner of the company. Note that the brothers have an interesting relationship and both are living off the company that has made their family wealthy. Here we are talking about the foundation of generational wealth which was started by their father in Tuscany, where they still raise cows that produce Gucci’s leather.
Enter Aldo’s son, Paolo (Jared Leto) who is a frustrated designer and favors lavender corduroy suits and possesses the Gucci ego.
When Patrizia meets Aldo at his 70th birthday party, she views him as a door to get back into the Gucci family so she charms him. He gives her a pair of Concorde tickets to New York and she loves the perks that go with being a member of the Gucci empire. For a short period.
Maurizio and Aldo seem content to be a part of a big, greedy family but where there is money, there is also tension like the war brewing over the infamous Gucci knockoff handbags that are sold on the streets of the world, for $29.95. Patrizia thinks they damage the Gucci image. Then Aldo reveals that the Gucci company oversees them because they make money!
As Patrizia lives in the life of wealth and privilege, her ferocity becomes razor-focused. Lady Gaga’s performance is a revelation as we never lose sight of the working-class girl who wants a life of wealth and privilege. She is a social climber and proud of it, and willing to do the hard work to keep it. She’s so desperate that she takes advice from a television psychic named Pina (Salma Hayek), who becomes her ally and eventually her partner-in-crime when she figures out how to cut Aldo out of the picture and seduce and abandon Paolo.
Adam Driver delivers a near-perfect performance especially when he begins to wake up and begins to resent what Patrizia is doing to his family which is essentially tearing it apart. It’s an interesting dynamic and since steel sharpens steel it’s no surprise that she infuses a new ruthlessness into him where he begins to transform into—a Gucci.
“House of Gucci” is a movie about shifting power. It’s so riveting watching this brand and family implode—you can’t look away.