San Diego's Morning News with Ted and LaDona

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Movie Review: House of Gucci with Gaga

The commercials for this movie both worried and excited me. I was excited because Lady Gaga just looked so evil as she sipped her espresso and said, “I’m not the most ethical person…but I’m fair.”

Yet in the same trailer you see all these wigs, big glasses, and fat suits, and Jared Leto acting so over-the-top. It just looked more like a Saturday Night Live skit.

The movie is both of those things.

Gaga’s performance was tremendous. She truly does have a talent for acting. It was easy for some to dismiss her solid performance in A Star is Born because she played a singer. But she delivers the goods in both films.

Leto, who has proven he’s a great actor (and Oscar winner), was just a bit too campy. Sometimes his sentences had more “Ohhs” and “Ehhs” than actual words. He used an analogy about there being a big difference between chocolate and sh** (although that’s a bigger complaint with the screenplay, which has lots of problems). He also looked like he was channeling Jeffrey Tambor. 

Al Pacino is terrific, but when is he not?

Salma Hayek plays a TV psychic who befriends and manipulates Patrizia. It reminded me too much of her kooky character in Bliss from earlier this year.

It’s always great to see Jeremy Irons on screen, although he doesn’t appear to be the least bit Italian. My half-Italian wife is always a bit bothered when non-Italians are playing Italians, or people don’t pull off the proper accents. In this, they often go in and out of their proper accents. 

Adam Driver, who is usually reliable on screen, doesn’t quite convey the story arc provided for him -- a shy guy who doesn’t want to go into the Gucci family business, who then becomes a ruthless businessman when he finally does. It reminded me of his castmate, Pacino, in The Godfather. I’m sure some critics out there will say this was “The Godfather meets Devil Wears Prada.”

I was pleasantly surprised to see Italian actress Camille Cottin pop up later in the movie. She was great in Stillwater (Matt Damon) earlier this year. Casting Cottin works better for this character then if they had cast some super model that was going to be the other woman.

Oh, speaking of super models, they hired a gorgeous one to play Sophia Loren in a scene. I was just confused a bit by the guy cast to play Tom Ford (Reeve Carney). I felt the actor playing the Gucci family lawyer (Jack Huston, grandson of John), looked more like Tom Ford. And since they got a woman that looked exactly like Anna Wintour, surely they could have gotten it right with Ford.

Enough about the cast. The movie looks good, when it comes to the costume and production design, but the problems lie with an atrocious screenplay and bad direction by Ridley Scott. He gives us a two and a half hour movie that often felt more like an episode of Dynasty than a feature film. And it never really settles on a consistent tone. At one moment, it’s camp. Other times, it’s a serious drama. One moment we hear some serious opera. Another moment we hear the Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams.” Oh, and that leads me to the needle drops. I’m getting increasingly frustrated by movies relying on classic songs from an era. In this movie it was songs I don’t care for, as well as songs that didn’t fit the scene. I mean, playing George Michael’s “Faith” during the entire wedding scene...what was that about? Not to mention the fact that in real life, they got married years before that song was released. Oh, and they actually met in 1970, but this movie has them meeting in 1978, probably so we can have some Donna Summer needle drops [side note: “I Feel Love” is a very underrated song]. And as great as Bowie and Blondie are, “Ashes to Ashes” and “Heart of Glass” have been played out at this point. I think the only piece of music that worked for me was the piece from The Barber of Seville (although that just goes back to my childhood and watching Bugs Bunny tormenting Elmer Fudd during that Rossini piece).

Here’s the story. Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) has her sights set on Maurizio Gucci (Driver). Maurizio’s dad Rodolfo (Irons) immediately surmises she’s a gold digger. Yet because this is a poorly written screenplay, we see her looking at a Klimt painting and saying, “Oh, is this a Picasso?”

Now, even though the style is so easily recognizable as Klimt, people that don’t know art probably wouldn’t know that. But surely they’d be able to tell it’s not a Picasso. And if they don’t know Picasso’s style, we know her character is at least smart enough to not guess on who the artist could possibly be. The odds of guessing correctly would be astronomically low. 

The word “low” also makes me think of the low level of energy Driver brings to this character. It makes the movie feel like he and Gaga are in two different films. Yet that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work sometimes. As he’s trying to be talked into going into the family business by his uncle (Pacino), or he passive-aggressively tells his wife why he got her a gift card to Bloomingdale’s, or how her story to their friends about the macarons she got is filled with unnecessary details they don’t care about, all makes his low-key deliveries of those lines more powerful.

There are some fun scenes as we watch Paolo Gucci, the black sheep of the family (or the “Fredo”), try to push his fashion designs on his dad and uncle. 

Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen too many movies over the years, but I can’t figure out why it wasn’t more dramatic or interesting to find out about Aldo’s tax-evasion and how he and his nephew end up on the outs. 

Ridley Scott, who had better success dealing with rich Italians in All the Money in the World, should have decided if he wanted to make a serious picture or camp. Instead, he gave us campy characters in a dramatic piece, and never the twain shall meet (check me out, going from Klimt to Kipling all in one review). 

Overall though, despite all its flaws, my wife and I were never bored watching it.

2 ½ stars out of 5.

Fun fact: Hayek is married to Francois-Henri Pinault, the CEO of Kering. That’s the French fashion conglomerate that now owns Gucci.

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