Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

Ridley Scott called his chaotic new movie Gucci House “satire”. In other words, it’s meant to be a joke. That explains a lot. Scott is a lot of things, including a sometimes unparalleled great-design filmmaker. He’s not a comedian. Technically, the project is a crime movie. At its core is the assassination of fashion heiress Maurizio Gucci in 1995 in Milan. Anyone who is not aware that the murder was a hit, for which his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani paid, will know it now, after the movie’s pre-publicity. The whodunnit is redundant. It’s Ridley Scott. As with all crimes, the more difficult question is why.

Yet it begins so innocently. With Gucci played by Adam Driver and Reggiani by Lady Gaga, the first half hour is a turnip, as charming as the rest is awful. “Inspired by the true story,” reads the preface, Scott fills the screen with clouds of dust as if making a wink promise: let me clear things up. It’s 1978. Entering with a mighty va-va-voom the future Signora Gucci, doing the books at her father’s trucking company, but soon cinderella by Driver’s Maurizio. He – socially capable, if gifted with the building and dancing moves of a lamppost – says she looks like Elizabeth Taylor.

The courtship has the air of a movie – a light, old-fashioned romantic hairdresser. Gaga has big star presence. The camera is crazy for her. Patrizia writes her number in lipstick on Maurizio’s scooter windscreen and leaves little wrap around as to whether he is going to take her out. He does not want an escape clause anyway. Despite the frown of his brave father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), newlyweds’ happiness comes.

Lady Gaga brings va-va-voom to her role before disappearing from view © Fabio Lovino

If this sounds like fun, it is. Make it a happy ending and step out now. Scott puts original sin properly in the way of his lovebirds – with admission to the family business, their dreams come true, pulling out the worst in them, just like the whole tribe. The movie was also ruined.

As with the Guccis, you can blame excess. There is too much story, big and half-cooked: a marriage with a weak star, ambition, privilege, family betrayal, fashion, financial hanky-panky. Scott gets lost and the cast goes awry. The Accents Alone – “dis-ag-goed-ag-pizza ” – is extraordinary. The acting is worse. Al Pacino turns chairman Aldo Gucci into a gurning hobgoblin. His poor deceased son Paolo is made such a comic grotesque by Jared Leto, you hope the actor is now haunted by his ghost.

Jared Leto portrays Paolo Gucci as a comic grotesque © Fabio Lovino

As this sounds like fun, it is not. The movie plays as a setback soap opera set in ancient chaise longues and in St Moritz ski lodges. But when the mood is camp, it is also joyless. (You could argue Scott is brilliantly deceiving the misery of wealth. Good luck.)

The surprise is how shaky the film is on what should be safe ground. As a corporate cinematographer, you might think Gucci would be a natural match for Scott, once a humble British advertising director who now runs a global – family-centered – range of businesses. How does even that aspect of the movie end up being so messy? Stripped of structural logic, clashes scenes randomly, deformed by preconceived actors. If a show like Gaga’s makes a movie get away with murder, one like Leto’s is deadly. It makes the movie worse than ridiculous. That makes it boring.

Reggiani would say she knows what the problem is. She would be right. Oddly enough, she and Gaga almost disappear from the film’s second half. By misleading one of its only functioning stars, the movie also loses the plot. The question of what makes a sparkling social climber into a killer ends an afterthought, despite having been around long enough that you, like Maurizio Gucci, might turn gray in the course of it.

Yet even this overcrowded movie is nothing like long enough. If it is conceived in 2021, the project will become a streaming mini-series, and it will make pragmatic sense. As it is, Gucci House is not just a bad movie, but a bad movie commercial.

★★ ☆☆☆

From 26 November in British cinemas and now in American cinemas

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