“I have expensive tastes.”
There are at least a half dozen different films stuffed within the confines of House of Gucci, Ridley Scott’s ambition true-crime saga. Part murder mystery, part family drama, party scorned love affair, the story surrounding the death of Maurizio Gucci (played y Adam Driver) on March 27, 1995, is one for the ages, its adaptation a foregone conclusion. That said, in this era, it was likely more suited for a limited series than a single sitting experience.
Set in Milan, 1978, House of Gucci centers on the iconic luxury brand, the family empire that implodes when Maurizio weds Patrizia Reggiani. The daughter of a middle-class business owner is an unmistakable outsider amid the Gucci family, made known by their absence at the couple’s wedding ceremony. But Patrizia won’t be slighted; she knows where her future lies; she is a Gucci.
At one point, during the early days of their courtship, the couple is seen violently screwing on top of an office desk to the sound of opera. The moment personifies the obsession each has for the other and the love and support they share. Maurizio’s family disapproves, writing him off as a result. It secures that the wedding wasn’t the result of greed but rather love, ultimately setting the stage for the ultimate betrayal.
That betrayal is honestly the only film within House of Gucci that you need to concern yourself with. Though we showed up for the high-level fashion and family drama, we soon realize that there is only one thing that keeps the story moving; one thing that establishes itself within the chaos, giving purpose to the larger picture. That one thing is none other than Lady Gaga.
In one of the opening scenes, Gaga’s Patrizia pulls her car into her parking spot and walks across a dirt field to her office. The camera is drawn to her strut as she exudes the confidence of a business owner, a title that she does not hold. But this is her movie, her story; we all happen to be reveling in it.
One cannot take full responsibility for assuming that the film’s melodramatic spectacles result from Gaga’s performance. She has constantly bathed in the world of excess, never afraid to wink at the audience as she embraced the absurd. She likely loves that her reputation generates such a thought. And that isn’t to say that Gaga doesn’t, on occasion, enjoy the moment of camp. Undoubtedly she does.
But the success of the Oscar winner’s portrayal lies within her ability to veer back and forth between the ridiculous, the severe, and straight-faced. For the film to work, all must be present. Of the highly regarded cast, she is the only one who shifts as necessary, doing so with effortless precision.
The story, centered on love, has moments where you begin to question whether Patrizia is a con artist after the money that sits behind the Gucci name. A conversation at a disco party results in a purposefully accidental meeting at a bookstore. The long game fully exposed, you begin to notice this woman is in love. It isn’t until she becomes an official Gucci that she bears witness to the cracks within the family foundation, cracks she is more than willing to exploit.
Driver is more than steady as Maurizio, though you must wonder how engaged he was with the role. Lack of emotion aside, his shoulders provide a nice resting spot for Gaga as he counters her every move, allowing her to take center stage as she devises a plan to garner him what she feels to be his birthright - complete Gucci control.
When things begin to go south for the couple, and Patrizia finds herself on the outside of both the business and her husband’s mind, Gaga restructures her approach, channeling her character to provide an authentic reaction that would lead her to the extreme. That honest approach saves House of Gucci from driving full speed off a cliff. It isn’t perfect, far from it, but it more than solidifies that Lady Gaga has maneuvered herself out of the pop superstar sphere, unequivocally becoming a powerhouse all-around entertainer.