It's Goooochi, darling.
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Coco Chanel once famously said to look in the mirror before leaving the house and take one thing off. But Gucci is not Chanel, and Ridley Scott is not a man built for minimalism: His House does pretty much everything to the max, a chaotic bellissimo romp of a movie so stuffed with oversized characters and telenovela twists that it feels less like a biopic than a duty-free Dynasty.  

At 157 minutes, it could also nearly be a miniseries, which actually might have served the amount of outrageous real-life narrative screenwriters Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna are attempting to cram in. The center and the springboard, though, is the romance between Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) and Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga). She's a tiny firecracker, a pocket Venus in a wiggle skirt with dreams that reach a lot higher than the reception desk of her father's trucking company. He's tall and rangy, an absent-minded scion who would rather study law than take his own expected place in the family business.  

When they meet at a Milan nightclub in 1978, Maurizio thinks she looks like Liz Taylor; she thinks he looks like a millionaire. He's too shy and socially awkward to make a real move but she's no dummy: With some legwork and a little light stalking, she can make fate align for a first date. It doesn't take long until he's smitten with her sense of freedom and the lipstick kisses she leaves on his Vespa, even when his disapproving father (Jeremy Irons, sepulchral in a series of silk dressing gowns) sniffily cuts him off.

For a minute the pair get to play at keeping house like ordinary married people, but there's a power vacuum at Gucci that its current head, Maurizio's beloved uncle Aldo (an avuncular Al Pacino), can't fill alone — and certainly not with his own son, the rotund, faintly ridiculous Paolo. (That's Jared Leto under all those bald caps and prosthetics, though hiring Jeffrey Tambor seems like it might have been an easier shortcut.) Soon enough Maurizio is back in the mix, with Patrizia as his loyal consigliere and Lady Macbeth. But when her ambitions for the company outstrip her husband's patience with "outsiders" — and his attentions stray to an old friend (Stillwater's Camille Cottin) more suited to his class —  a more permanent plan B begins to fall into place.

Gucci is Scott's second movie this year after the underappreciated Last Duel, and at 83, his sense of melodrama and florid showmanship is largely undiminished; the story on screen, with its vast palazzos, headline scandals, and Swiss bank accounts, feels like one of those old Vanity Fair articles about rich-people depravity come to life. In that sense, it has more in common with 2017's All the Money in the World than any of his Gladiators or American Gangsters. Which is not to say that Gaga doesn't come in full battle dress: Beneath the Ferrari-red snowsuits and wild wiggery, she vibrates with an intensity that often supersedes the sillier bits, every hand clap and espresso-cup tap another brick in a highly GIF-able whole.

It's clear she's playing for her life, though it's less obvious whether she's in the same movie as her costars: Leto's clownish Paolo seems to be in some kind of tragic comedy; the storyline for Salma Hayek, as the late-night TV psychic Patrizia increasingly leans on, is pure farce. And Driver, maybe for the first time, is the coolest cucumber in the room, a distracted aristocrat who retreats behind his name and his nice things whenever things get too ugly or difficult. (That they're all speaking in a lumpy risotto of accents that range from La Dolce Vita to lost Mario brother certainly doesn't help, though it's also hard at this point to imagine the film without them.)

Gucci might have been a better movie if it had fully committed to the high camp its Blondie-soundtracked trailer promised. It's more serious than that, at least intermittently; a strange melange of too much and not enough. The script also skimps, weirdly, on the actual murder, which is treated mostly as a framing device and felonious afterthought until the final moments. But even a House divided is still more fun than it probably should be: a big messy chef's kiss to money and fashion and above all, movie stars — criming and scheming like they have nothing left to lose, until it's true. Grade: B

Related content:

House of Gucci (2021 Movie)

Lady Gaga and Adam Driver front Ridley Scott’s grim-and-glam retelling of Patrizia Reggiani’s orchestration of her fashion mogul ex-husband’s murder — and it’s all dressed in jaw-dropping costumes that’ll have you praying to the Father, Son, and House of Gucci.

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