During a dinner scene around lunch tables that would make the “Fast & Furious” franchise proud, albeit trade the sunshine for snowy mountains but I digress, Maurizio (Adam Driver) tells his wife, Patrizia (Lady Gaga), that she tells stories with too many unnecessary details. He’s right, of course, the answer to the simple question of where the macaroons on the table originated from could have ended with “Paris,” but Patrizia goes on a lengthy tangent that embellishes details of a trip to Paris. All the while, Maurizio constantly corrects her, bringing reality to light and ruining her facade. Why is this relevant? Because, like this paragraph, “House of Gucci” tells too many details in an overstuffed movie. A movie that is oftentimes fun and campy is also stuffed to the brim with far too much story; even with a beefy 2 hour and 37-minute runtime.
There are some beats of a Shakespearean tragedy in “House of Gucci” that are poetic. Maurizio begins as the spoiled prince of a castle he can never handle; unable to dance and eat street food alike. He is humbled early on, living a blue-collar life with Patrizia before being brought back into the family business. The oft-recited line from “The Godfather Part 3,” “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me right back in,” applies to Maurizio’s arc.
All of the performances are delicate and very precise (albeit very campy with extra rolls on every “r”), but it’s Driver and Lady Gaga who constantly steal scenes. In all fairness, they are featured in at least 80% of the film, but despite Driver playing yet another role with daddy issues, his take of Maurizio felt fresh and different for the actor. He may not turn into a quasi-emo that probably regularly listens to Phoebe Bridgers (Kylo Ren), but he does eventually gain bearings on his life and take a turn of his own; even if he is a bit over his head. Lady Gaga has become a proven commodity in acting, and her role sees her go toe-to-toe with the likes of Driver, Pacino, Irons, and Leto, all of whom are better/more experienced performers. She goes from a lowly secretary for her father, to puppeteer wife, and then the crazy ex, and Lady Gaga sinks her teeth into every moment.
“House of Gucci” is also the exact movie Al Pacino — who is coming off an Oscar-nominated performance in “The Irishman” — needed. It’s no surprise that he is great in any serious scene, but he also has a couple of scenes where he is allowed to get “big.” If unsure of what that entails, just search “Al Pacino yelling” on YouTube; any of the complications will give you a gist. A lot of his performance feels like an ode to “The Godfather,” in fact, a lot of “House of Gucci” pays homage to the masterpiece. For example, Aldo (Al Pacino) grabs his son at one point, much akin to the “kiss of death” scene from “The Godfather Part 2.” It’s likely not enough to get Pacino his second Oscar win, or even as good as the “Dunkaccino” bit in “Jack and Jill,” relax, I’m kidding, but like Steph Curry, Pacino can read the room and perform accordingly. Sometimes he gives you the half-court shot (going ballistic on some poor soul), other times he gives you the easy layup (an emotional scene), but what cannot be denied is how he injects life into every scene he’s in.
Despite being great, much of the ensemble — Pacino included — has very little screen time. Jeremy Irons is fantastic in the 10 minutes he has; ditto for Salma Hayek, who has probably double the screen time; Reeve Carney pops in, which was a welcome surprise as both a defender and three-time viewer of “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.” It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, however, more from someone like Irons could have benefitted the story and helped how rushed certain stories felt. For as much time as “House of Gucci” has, it jumps around while rarely sharing the year, so viewers are left with hair length changes and slight aging to decipher how much time has passed.
If Maurizio is Michael Corleone, Paolo (Jared Leto) is the “House of Gucci” equivalent to Fredo. Maurizio’s chic cousin, Paolo, is always in the shadow of his father. All he ever needed was a pat on the back here and there, yet Paolo is constantly reminded just how impotent he is. He’s easily manipulated, and despite how ridiculous Leto looks in the prosthetics, his emotional moments when he realizes he has been screwed — which happens a few times — do land.
For as great as a lot of aspects of “House of Gucci” are, a Martin Scorsese-runtime was not necessary. To Ridley, both “Alien” and “Blade Runner” were under two hours and remain masterpieces. And for as much homage as “House of Gucci” pays to “The Godfather,” the runtime was an area it did not have to mirror. You see, the story of “House of Gucci” easily could end in about five places. But there is just so much inconsistency in pacing after the first thirty minutes that people in the screening room were snoring in certain parts. “House of Gucci” fluctuates between very engaging and very predictable to the point it’s impressive. The final hour spends a lot of time on Maurizio’s time at the top of Gucci, but this was by far the least interesting part of the entire film. The “family business” aspect of “House of Gucci” is by far the better story arc; after all, Patrizia also comes from a family business, and the choice to focus on the Gucci brand for what feels like an eternity really does hurt the film.
The theme of family is prevalent in “House of Gucci.” Patrizia begins as a secretary for her father’s business and is the biggest advocate for Maurizio’s reconciliation with his father early on. The “family business” drama far exceeds the generic drama on the pure business side of things where people are manipulated out and then pushed out themselves.
“House of Gucci” is a bumpy ride that certainly won’t please everyone. Without being a fan of any of the leads, it’s hard to imagine anyone sitting through the three-hour runtime and not feeling like they’ve seen it before. For that, and the ridiculously bloated runtime, “House of Gucci” is unfortunately not as chic as the various spectacles that Pacino wears throughout.
“House of Gucci” will be released in theaters on November 24.