A talented young man is motivated by his manipulative wife to take hold of the power that lies within easy reach. He just needs to be ruthless in order to obtain it. Despite his qualms, he follows her advice and is led onwards to his own destruction.
This is, of course, the plot of Macbeth, but it’s also one that fits House of Gucci like a perfectly designed leather glove. Ridley Scott’s film, based on the book by Sara Gay Forden, relates the true life events that led up to the assassination, in 1995, of Maurizio Gucci, the major shareholder in one of the world’s most successful fashion brands. If proof were ever needed that real life can be weirder than fiction, then here it is, writ large.
When we first meet Maurizio (Adam Driver) it’s the 1970s and, though he’s well aware that he’s the potential heir to the Gucci fortune, he’s already decided he wants none of it and is training to be a lawyer. Then, at a party, he meets Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), who – having recognised the possibilities that Maurizo’s surname offers – has soon romanced him to the point where he wants to marry her.
Maurizio’s sickly father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), decides she’s a ‘gold-digger’ and advises his son to steer clear, but Maurizio is smitten enough to renounce the family fortunes in order to be with her. It isn’t long before Maurizio and Patrizia are married and a baby daughter is on the way. Meanwhile, she keeps reminding Maurizio that he needs to step up to the plate and take control of his inheritance…
After the assured (but sadly unsuccessful) The Last Duel, this film feels like another Ridley Scott body- swerve. He’s always been a director that refuses to be pigeon-holed and this really couldn’t be more different from its predecessor, but where TLD felt perfectly judged, HOG is just flabby and unfocused, a parade of caricatures cavorting in a series of fancy locations. It rarely feels like these people are real and have actual lives.
While Lady Gaga certainly puts in a game performance as the success-obsessed Patrizia, even Al Pacino as Maurizo’s Uncle Aldo struggles to rise above the clunky dialogue he’s been given.
And then there’s the enigma of Jared Leto as Aldo’s deluded son, Paolo, who fancies himself as a fashion designer but has no evident talent to back him up. It’s panto season, so perhaps that explains why Leto feels the need to deliver his lines in a kind of high pitched sing-song fashion, but it just seems… really odd. What’s more, with a two-hour-thirty-eight minute running time, there’s a lot here that should have been cut back. The film doesn’t really find its mojo until the final third, but by then it feels like a case of too little, too late. There’s a welcome appearance by Call My Agent‘s Camille Cottin as the new woman in Maurizio’s life, but she’s not given enough to do.
It certainly doesn’t help that most of the people involved are venal, unscrupulous capitalists and it speaks volumes when Pacino’s Aldo – an unapologetic tax dodger – emerges as the film’s most sympathetic character.
In the end, this is something of a disappointment.