House of Gucci (2021)
Words by Lucy Vipond
House of Gucci (2021)
“It’s better to cry in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle” are the immortal words of Patrizia Reggiani; glamour fiend, ex-wife of Maurizio Gucci and his subsequent murderer. House of Gucci director, Ridley Scott, shares how the pair’s marriage grew bitter, introducing a content Maurizio smoking over an espresso, moments before cycling towards his untimely death.
The film backtracks to the pair meeting at a party. The brash Patrizia (Lady Gaga) pursues the feeble Maurizio (Adam Driver), her attention rising upon hearing his surname, Gucci. They dance together. He compares her beauty to Elizabeth Taylor. She proceeds to stalk him. Estranged from his side of the family, following a dispute with Maurizio’s father regarding Patrzia, the pair marry.
The film narrows in on a less savoury period in the Gucci legacy (the murder aside), when the Gucci family experienced the fashion empire equivalent of a style rut. The house failed to innovate during the eighties post-global recession, when the opulence and rebellion of Christian Lacroix and sculptor-turned-carver of the female body, King of Cling, Azzedine Alaïa encapsulated the decadence of the decade. Italy was home to Elio Fiorruci, Giorgio Armani and later in the decade the great Romeo Gigli, soon Franca Sozzani would begin her sovereignty at Vogue Italia, while Gucci relied on the wilting charms of their archive.
The disintegration of the Gucci business coincides with the dismantling of the family. The suave Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons), the son of founder Guccio Gucci, dies. Until his last scene Rodolfo’s veneer is maintained, dressed in a rich silk dressing gown and styled in billowing neckties, we are reminded Italy’s roots in fashion are interwoven with their expertise in textiles. Not only does the movie lose its most glamorous figurehead, but the Gucci family loses half of its stakeholder, which Maurizio later inherits. Patrizia rouses Maurizio’s interest in the family business; quite literally seducing him if she must. She becomes his business consultant with aims of resurrecting Gucci without the interference of other family members. Enter the other stakeholders; father and son duo, Aldo and Paolo Gucci, played by Al Pacino and Jared Leto respectively - the melodrama intensifies to soap operatic.
A pitiful diva, Paolo might have been the film’s single empathy inducing character. If only he was portrayed as human and not a clown. I wonder how much of a Gucci fan Ridley Scott is? Paolo’s ridiculed vision of browns and pastels together, his ‘eccentric’ mauve corduroy suit are all very Allesandro Michelle.
Salma Hayek was also met with audible laughter upon her first appearance as a dial in psychic, and murder-accomplice to be, appearing on telly right when Patrizia is questioning her future. Her performance however was more subtle than others, overpowered by Patrizia in most scenes, as with all characters.
Patrizia’s hair alone is perhaps the most apparent signifier of time changing in the movie spanning decades. Growing gradually more obnoxious as she does: from the humble bob she dons in the early days of marriage to the perm she boasts while manipulating and scheming.
The couple's meddling escalates until both become consumed by Gucci. Maurizio divorces Patrizia leaving her uncharacteristically helpless, begging him to take her back. She gives up and sends threatening voice messages and hires two amateur hitmen to kill him.
The murder, as crass as it was in real life, was surely no reaction to the woe of losing her husband as the film suggests. Gaga’s performance is vigorous in its defiance throughout House of Gucci: Patrizia is by no means the victim, nor the suffering wife. The real Patrizia attended every court appearance dressed in Gucci and never admitted guilt. She wanted Gucci not the man. Maurizio’s death comes shortly after Tom Ford revival of the legacy brand and finds he will need to sell his shares; it is all so inconsequential.
House of Gucci isn’t the gripping murderous affair it is disguised as, or a cautionary tale of greed. I truly believe it's a love story, a turbulent and bitter romp. With so many liberties taken, why couldn’t fashion be one of them? It's a discoteca in the 70s and this is the Gucci film, so why are the girls wearing Zara’s seasonal party wear? Forget the true story and indulge in the caricature, it's the only way. At the end of the day, it's Lady Gaga in all her Italian method acting glory and Adam Driver in a knitted turtleneck and glasses.