[Screen It]


(2021) (Lady Gaga, Adam Driver) (R)

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Drama: A family-run fashion empire must contend with changing times and in-fighting, especially when a new wife begins pushing for more control.

Having met at a party, Patrizia Reggiani (LADY GAGA) has become completely infatuated with Maurizio Gucci (ADAM DRIVER), one of two heirs apparent of the Gucci fashion business. But with Maurizio's Milan-based father, Rodolfo (JEREMY IRONS), disowning him for marrying someone he believes to be a gold digger, the young man ends up allying himself with his uncle, Aldo (AL PACINO), who runs most of the day-to-day operations of the company in New York City.

Thinking his son, Paolo (JARED LETO), is worthless, Aldo is happy to work with Maurizio who maintains a good working relationship with his father's lawyer, Domenico De Sole (JACK HUSTON). It's Patrizia, however, who's the real go-getter in the family and as the years pass, she seeks out greater control of the company, helped by her advice from TV psychic Pina Auriemma (SALMA HAYEK).

But with business dealings in the family becoming ever more strained, and with Maurizio tiring of his marriage in favor of his friend and eventual lover, Paola Franchi (CAMILLE COTTIN), it's unclear how things will play out and what steps Patrizia might take to retain her power.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10

The general rule of thumb about one's chosen vocation is that unless you're born into it, never run a business with family. Sure, sometimes it can work, but that's more the exception than the rule with the business world littered with failed endeavors and fractured relationships when two or more family members decide to give it a go.

Of course, just being born into a family business doesn't automatically mean success, and sometimes it can be as equally problematic as starting anew. And that's because of self-beliefs of entitlement -- especially in terms of just coasting by on the track laid by family predecessors -- as well as jealousy, distrust, and more. Those can be stressful for day-to-day family interactions and downright disastrous when applied to business operations.

All of which brings us around to "House of Gucci," a sometimes riveting, occasionally campy, and far too long look at the world-renowned fashion empire that's had its up and downs stemming from strained family dynamics and questionable business decisions but likely reached its nadir when one exiled family member put out a hit on another. This is that story and it's brought to the big screen by famed director Ridley Scott who works from a screenplay by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna (who've adapted Sara Gay Forden's book), and features an all-star cast, terrific production and costume designs, and a great blast from the past soundtrack.

The film begins as we see Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) mount his bicycle and arrive at his destination, only to notice too late that...the film is going to rewind many, many years to show us -- as movies are inclined to do -- what ultimately leads up to that point where those familiar with the real-life events know things are headed.

But back before things turned ugly, Maurizio is attending law school but is mistaken by Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) for being the bartender at a lavish event, simply because he's standing behind the bar. She has no idea who he is but gets him to agree to dance with her, but just like Cinderella, he needs to excuse himself.

Undeterred but certainly smitten she stalks and "accidentally" bumps into him again and it's not long before they're doing the horizontal mambo and he's telling dear old dad (Jeremy Irons) that he's serious. Having been around the block a few times, Rodolfo sees Patrizia for what she is and kicks his son out of the house when he refuses to treat her like a passing plaything. While that relationship sours, a new one blooms where Maurizio's uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) invites him and his new bride to New York to see where the real Gucci business is run.

With Aldo viewing his son, Paolo (an unrecognizable Jared Leto under pounds of makeup), as an embarrassing dolt, he enjoys having Maurizio around as his replacement and it's not long before Patrizia is enjoying the spoils of such proximity to the power players. Which is how she ultimately sees herself and thus she burrows further into the family business dealings, all while consulting with TV psychic Pina Auriemma (Salma Hayek) about what the future has in store for her.

And the years pass, although somewhat hazily, with Maurizio ultimately tiring of his wife's antics and finding more peace in his old friend, Paolo (Camille Cottin), while family lawyer Domenico De Sole (Jack Huston) remains calm, carries on, and adjusts his allegiances as necessary.

There's potential aplenty in all of that, even with Scott and company seemingly playing loose at times with the facts and timelines (that is, as far as I could tell doing a little research as I certainly wasn't up on all things Gucci related before our screening). But while the film occasionally sizzles, it has two big issues.

One is that it feels both too long and too short for a feature. Clocking in at nearly 160 minutes, it drags at times, particularly in the third act, although it then quickly presents the pivotal moment teased at the beginning and then moves on. It's one of those offerings with enough characters and materials that it easily could have been turned into a limited series run for some streaming company.

The other somewhat nagging problem -- which doesn't take into account the questionable at times Italian accents (the film could have been called "House of Accents"), although that certainly plays into the issue at hand -- is that the tone weaves in and out of camp. In fact, it's to the point that you're not sure if that was accidental or was the actual goal that then wasn't met.

Gaga is fun in her part, vamping it up to about one hundred and ten, with the same going for Leto, while Pacino nowadays sort of just does that on his own. But Driver and Huston apparently didn't get the notice and thus often come off like they're appearing in a different version of the film.

If you don't mind any of that, I'll admit it all goes down fairly easily, no doubt helped by the alluring visuals and beats on the soundtrack. But sort of like a knockoff Gucci bag, it might look like a real, glossy movie, but once opened some of the seams are showing and tearing under the strain. Okay, but nothing special, "House of Gucci" rates as a 5.5 out of 10.

Reviewed November 18, 2021 / Posted November 24, 2021

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