What starts as a Cinderella story may lead to a profitable marriage into a royal-like dynasty, but sure not to a “happy ever after”. And the shoe, in the form of a burgundy Gucci loafer, is not given to the girl, but to a financial investor. Based on true events, Ridley Scott brings an haute-couture family epic that ends in a plotted assassination to the big screen.
Written by Atlanta Kroehn
"It's a pumpkin - not a frog," Patrizia replies to Maurizio's joking claim that he turns into a frog at midnight, when the two meet for the first time at a pompous party that probably surpasses any fairy tale prom and where it is unclear how Patrizia even got there.
Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) is part of a dynasty that not only has a lot of money, but also prestige - especially in the fashion industry. Between Patrizia (Lady Gaga) and him a love develops that seems inseparable and initially resists all conflicts. But the dynasty and wealth take more and more space in their lives. This is the story of a family and a murder case.
The central theme of the film is not fashion, but rather the patriarchal structures that determine the entire lives of the protagonists and serve solely to increase the wealth. The viewer will almost never see a world outside the family. The few exceptions are the free spaces that the couple fought for at the beginning of their love relationship and the rare glimpses of Patrizia's origins. Although Patrizia also comes from an entrepreneurial family, which at least according to Rodolfo Gucci is yet not comparable to the dynasty.
It is a closed society in which both Patrizia and the viewer have a hard time getting really close to its family members.
Fashion is actually secondary in the perspective the film chooses. Although it is reasonable that it has created a hype on vintage Gucci products (https://www.forbes.com/sites/nadjasayej/2021/ 11/25/house-of-gucci-is-fueling-a-vintage-gucci-craze/?sh=a96e87f2d958), because it shows some beautiful outfits, takes place in landscapes that seem like advertising campaigns and the colour palette reminds of Tom Ford. Tom Ford (ex Gucci designer and director of A Single Man) even appears in the film himself - played by Reeve Carney. The advertising campaigns / Instagram aesthetics could have been exaggerated and broken even more extreme to truly achieve a unique look.
Overall, however, the film lacks a sense of artful fashion and drags creative processes into ridiculousness. This was done differently, for example, in the series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, which deals with a similar theme. There, individual pieces of clothing and the effect they have were given more cynical space.
The fact that it is not so much about the creative value of fashion is even part of the film's content, when a dispute arises about fake bags, which are not a problem for the family as long as they share in the profit. Patrizia, however, fears for the devaluation of the symbol of her social advancement.
The fact that the family is not just rich, but very very rich, shows in Real Estate in St. Moritz, sofas in the supposed value of villas in Monte Carlo and Ferrari F40s. Nevertheless, no one in the family has ever enough and they all fight to maintain their individual fortune: Aldo (Al Pacino) fights for the preservation of his life's work, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) for power over his son, Paolo (Jared Leto) for the recognition of his father, Patrizia for social advancement. Only Maurizio seems as if he is just drifting and remains strangely undefined in his motivation. However, it is he who ultimately takes the most shares off the table.
In this unchivalrous struggle, alliances within the family are important, but also fragile. So family ties break and get strengthened again, marriages are made, promises are sworn to "the Father, the son and the House of Gucci" and contracts are signed. The real coup, however, lies in a merger outside the family.
In this network of alliances, its twice as tough for Patrizia, not only because she is not a born Gucci, but also because she is the only woman in this patriarchal structure who plays any role at all. And she has fought hard for this role. She has always been driven by the desire to make her own Cinderella story come true.
If she were a guy she would be a talented Mister Ripley or Chris Wilton - but since she is a girl she is just seen as a gold digger.
Another person who is not a born Gucci has also made it into the innermost part of the family and that is the patriarch's lawyer. This person is automatically trusted more, although he also tries to manipulate the family to his advantage. More interestingly, the two outsiders do not ally. On the contrary, they fear being discovered by the other for what they are - namely not born Gucci family members trying to fit in.
The pressure, the coldness and the inherent greed eventually become so great that the whole construct ends in a terrible crime. Whereby already far before also another family member is condemned because of a felony.
Although the film raises interesting topics for discussion and shows remarkable images here and there, it has many weaknesses. On the one hand, the fact that it is simply too long, and on the other hand, the even more obvious fact that it shows a clichéd image of Italian culture, which almost reaches the absurdities of the image of France in Emily in Paris.
This culminates in undoubtedly bad fake Italian accents, which even slip into British from time to time. With Jared Leto, one gets the impression that he embodies less a real persona than a well know gaming character hopping across the screen of a Game Boy Color.
The cartoonish quality, which does neither match the film's tonality nor theme, is all too often evident, such as in the impersonation (albeit very good) of Anna Wintour or when Lady Gaga's acting slips. Here, one can never be sure whether this is an expression of Patrizia's misplacement in the family or simply nonsense.
In summary, the film is a somewhat lengthy true crime adventure with a minimal touch of haute couture, in which Al Pacino and Adam Driver, who incidentally impresses with restraint and ambivalence, wander through the film set of a soap.