A melodramatic dive into high fashion
House of Gucci is Ridley Scott’s second film of 2021. It stars Lady Gaga and Adam Driver with supporting roles from AL Pacino, Jared Leto and Jeremy Irons and details the real life events surrounding the fashion brand ‘Gucci’ in a modern subversion of MacBeth. The film starts off strong, the dialogue is clunky and the way Patrizia an Maurizio are introduced and interact is beyond stilted however the performances are enough to maintain interest and the entertaining execution of the Shakespearean esque biopic surrounding the story one of the most recognised brands on earth was enough to get through the initial shortcomings. The first half maintains it’s established level of prestige while balancing a healthy level of comical wit and fun that matches the exaggerated effort from the actors only to be let down by sloppy filmmaking. The second half slows to a crawl and abandons the first half’s tongue and cheek approach to it’s screenplay favouring a straight drama that struggles to maintain viewer investment up until it’s admittedly captivating final sequence that cleverly ties back into the start. The story starts to feel like a basic retelling of events with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, ambition or style, simply phoning in its conclusion and failing to reconnect with the initial burst of satirical edge that complimented the far more interesting first half.
Despite the screenplay facing some issues sticking the landing the performances are arguably the films strongest aspect and the aspect that will undoubtedly be making headlines at award season. Adam Driver and Jeremy Irons are both playing it straight however that isn’t a bad thing. They’re both terrific actors and they’re able to deliver great performances by delivering their expected level of quality. Al Pacino brings the standard expertise and mastery of craft that is expected from the actor, he plays it more out there than Driver and Irons but handles the subtleties with such effortless mastery he completely falls into the environment as always, becoming a stylish wallpaper to complement and support the rest of the cast. Jared Leto and Lady Gaga however opted for a more methodical and bold approach to their performances. Leto has become infamous for this approach, always ending in mixed results to say the least. He goes largely unnoticed against his more talented cast partners in this, being a footnote that goes without any notice despite his outside of production efforts and commitment. Lady Gaga however is able to succeed where he failed for the most part. She is bringing an equal level of dedication and gravitace that matches the self important attitude the film adorns itself in making her the perfect fit to headline it as the face of the toxic ego of competitive business and hyperbolic fashion diva.
The film is shot decently. It’s an aspect that felt bland and a missed opportunity. There’s nothing bad to say about the composition but there’s also not anything great to praise either. The colour grading however is unfocused, jumping from palette to palette with no clear direction or reason. I suppose it could be argued this lack of absolute visual identity is deliberate on Ridley and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski’s part in order to invoke a flash of bewilderment on the audience, as though the screen itself were a catwalk for the colours many and styles high fashion is synonymous with to walk down; however the quality of the look itself is poor. Oversaturated browns and vapid shades of black, white and grey make what should have been a bold, striking visual identity to compliment the bombast of the screenplay into something that is overall mediocre. Aesthetics aside the entire effort on a filmmaking level feels disappointing coming from one the greats himself. It’s a film begging to have an interesting voice guide it through it’s many changing tones and it’s poetic satire about the downfalls and targeted dismantles of it’s eccentric fashion tycoon caricatures. The editing is the film’s weakest technical aspect. The structure of the film constantly feels cluttered. Rarely do scenes flow together cohesively due the abhorrent editing and clunky dialogue leading to rigid and poorly structured experience.
Overall the plot feels bloated. At the end of it’s nearly 3 hour runtime it doesn’t feel like it justified it, the 2nd half drags the entire experience down however the first halfs tale of familial and corporate espionage in a blend of Shakspeare and postmodern vogue was incredibly entertaining and the performance with exception of one were all well delivered making the experience worthwhile despite it’s numerous shortcomings.
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