There's not a more distracting actor currently working than Jared Leto. Donning a fat suit and wearing heavy prosthetics in "House of Gucci," he's only recognizable by his usual scene-chewing, and he turns in one of the lousiest acting performances of any actor in recent years.
Like Leto in this film, there might be something decent underneath all the bloat and make-up when it comes to "House of Gucci," but director Ridley Scott squanders the opportunity. Given an all-star cast to work with, this excessive, meandering exposé on the fall of the Gucci Empire should have been better...yes Jared Leto's brutal performance is the worst part of the movie, but it's sadly not the only thing wrong with it.
Coming in at a whopping 157 minutes, "House of Gucci" almost craves glut. But it starts off promising enough. Based on real events, Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) meets young Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), the heir to the Gucci empire. Not yet known for their daring, high-fashion and famed reputation that they'd achieve by the mid-1980s, Gucci at the time of this film (set in the 1970s) was an empire all the same. The family business was managed by the brothers Aldo (Al Pacino) and Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), with their close advisor and financier, Domenico De Sole (Jack Huston) never too far away. Rodolfo warns his son Maurizio about letting an outsider - Patrizia - get her claws in him, but...you know...love.
Patrizia does marry into the Gucci family, but the honeymoon doesn't last long, as she and Maurizio slowly drift apart. Rodolfo is sick, and Aldo's only son Paolo (Leto) is a giant buffoon, so there is a lot riding on Maurizio. What follows is an unraveling of a family, with Patrizia at the center, as betrayal and even murder end up on the menu.
While the Gucci family and their fall from grace are worthy subjects for an epic crime film such as this, the proceedings stall out sometime after Jeremy Irons is out of the mix. Everyone in the film speaks in bad Italian accents, and they begin to take their toll just minutes in. Although they are all in the same family, they all speak in different Italian accents, their individual dialect coaches never - apparently - meeting to discuss having them all sound like they're from the same family. It would be akin to an American family, where one has a Boston accent, the other a thick Southern drawl, and another a cajun Louisiana sound.
My apologies for circling back to Jared Leto's performance, but his accent is the worst of all. It's ten notches more over-the-top than any of the others, and at all times he seems like a character that wandered out of an SNL sketch. He supplies comic relief, yes (or is at least supposed to), but he also has to perform in some serious scenes opposite icons the likes of Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons. At no point does Leto convince you that they should have given him this role above, say, a Paul Giamatti, or any other slightly overweight and balding Italian actor.
More so than Leto, Ridley Scott may actually be the one to blame. He sorely miscalculates Leto's effectiveness, and somewhere inside of this mess there might have existed a cohesive and interesting story. Even Pacino (those of you who know me know that Al Pacino is my everything), who gives a solid performance for about half of the film, is allowed to "go for it" in a late scene opposite Leto, where he goes "full Pacino" on him. We shouldn't be noticing the actors in any scene, and the distractions are plenty throughout.
Ridley Scott in his old age (the legendary director is now 83 years old) seems to prefer the longer run-time on his films, but it's not simply the problem that "House of Gucci" is over two-and-a-half hours...it's how that time is spent. I was a big fan of his recent film, "The Last Duel," which seemed tight and concise, despite it's run-time also being over two-and-a-half hours.
There are ways to make rich, unlikable families compelling (see HBO's "Succession"), but "House of Gucci" has nothing going for it. At the end of the movie, we've learned nearly nothing, and worse, Scott seemingly has nothing worthwhile to say about any of this. Gaga and Driver give valiant efforts, but it's all for naught, as "House of Gucci" ends up more like a house of cards, collapsing and scattering under its own overabundance of weight.
A real disappointment.
Genre: Drama, Crime.
Run Time: 2 hours and 37 minutes.
Starring: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Jack Huston, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Irons.
Directed by Ridley Scott ("The Last Duel," "All the Money in the World," "Prometheus," "American Gangster," "Black Hawk Down," "Gladiator," "White Squall").
"House of Gucci" is in theaters on Wednesday, November 24th, 2021.
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