Ridley Scott has already hit one out of the park this year with The Last Duel, now he returns with House of Gucci, an overlong film that is unequally a family drama and a half-hearted true crime docu-drama. Lady Gaga stars as Patrizia Reggiani, daughter of a middle-class Italian family. Her father owns a trucking company (with requisite organized crime implications), where she works as an accountant. Invited by a friend to a fancy party, she meets Maurizio (Adam Driver), a sort of charmingly hapless nerd she mistakes for a bartender. It’s a solid meet cute that gets even better when Maurizio announces his last name is Gucci. Patrizia recognizes the name, and, for lack of a better term, sets her cap for Maurizio, arranging a follow-up “accidental” meeting, and soon enough, she’s dating Maurizio. This displeases Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), who owns half of Gucci, along with his brother, Aldo (Al Pacino). Rodolfo cuts Maurizio off, and he seems honestly fine with it, going to work for Patrizia’s father. Patrizia, however, is not fine with it and works to reconcile Maurizio with his family via Zio Aldo.
Parts of Gucci play like a fancy Lifetime movie, especially in the early going as Aldo and Rodolfo stylishly repose at various glamorous villas, wearing a series of excellent 1970s couture outfits, and Patrizia schemes to get Maurizio into the family luxury clothing business. If nothing else, Gucci looks SPECTACULAR, from the costumes (designed by Janty Yates) to the sets (dressed by Letizia Santucci, with production design by Arthur Max), to the enthusiasm of the cast. The issue with Gucci is that everyone thinks they’re in a different movie and acts accordingly. Gaga goes Ryan Murphy big as if she’s in an episode of Italian Crime Story. Jeremy Irons thinks he’s in a prestige drama and slopes about elegantly as if he’s back at Brideshead Castle. Jared Leto thinks he’s in a camp comedy, and Adam Driver just does his usual low key, naturalistic thing like this is any other drama he’s starred in. Al Pacino, meanwhile, tunes up or down depending on with whom he shares the screen, so some of his scenes are normal (Driver, Irons) and others are bonkers (Leto, and to a lesser extent, Gaga).
Gucci isn’t bad, it’s just boring—which is maybe worse—as the film drags on past the two-and-a-half-hour mark. Scott wants to tell such a big story he doesn’t rein in the narrative sprawl any more than he reins in the individual decisions of his cast. The film stretches on and on as Scott incorporates every thread from Patrizia and Maurizio’s marriage falling apart, to the business wrangling that ultimately decimates the Gucci family relationships, to Tom Ford breathing new life into the atelier in the 1990s. Reeve Carney is perfectly charming as a young, energetic Ford, but like, do we NEED this? The film starts out being a dramatization of Patrizia and Maurizio’s relationship and how it impacts the Gucci family at large as Patrizia tries to Lady Macbeth her way to the top of Italian society. She’s a woman of huge ambition who drives the film’s early going, but Scott doesn’t seem as interested in the actual murder part of the story—even though it is the reason we are all here—as he is the Gucci business dealings that slowly but surely see the family exiled from their own business.
There’s nothing wrong with making a film about how the Guccis pushed each other out of their business until, finally, a long-time family retainer executed a hostile takeover that saw Maurizio, the last Gucci standing in the boardroom, out the door. But that is not the same story as Patrizia Reggiani hiring a hitman to kill her ex-husband, and Scott’s attempt to interweave them (working from a script by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna, adapting from Sara Gay Forden’s book, The House of Gucci: A True Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed) is uneven. He loses interest in Patrizia once Maurizio dumps her which leaves Gaga hanging somewhat, less central to the story in the third act, even though her character is still making big moves that drive action. But the scenes dedicated to Patrizia arranging the hit on her husband feel perfunctory, and, not unlike the Tom Ford stuff, extraneous to the story Scott really wants to tell. At its best, Gucci is a wildly entertaining family drama set against a backdrop of haute couture; at its worst, Gucci is a shockingly boring film that doesn’t seem to know where to focus.
House of Gucci is exclusively in theaters from November 24.