Sitting at two hours and 38 minutes, Ridley Scott’s newest film unpacks the betrayal of family and lust for wealth that tore the Gucci family away from the fashion empire that continues to hold their name. House of Gucci hit theatres this past November, just in time for Thanksgiving. Its star-studded cast and social media campaign on platforms such as TikTok brought in a wide audience. The feedback is, however, conflicting. Director Ridley Scott has found himself amid a sea of high praise and unforgiving criticism.
Among this praise also falls criticism of Scott’s decisions. The film is elegantly shot, capturing Italian cities, Swiss ski slopes and bustling New York from the angle of undeniable aesthetics. Adam Driver fits the role of the good-natured-turned-corrupted family heir seamlessly and the costume design is relentlessly intentional. In this quest for perfection, many critics feel Scott fell short of the artistic exploration that could have made this blockbuster a masterpiece. He does not push the boundaries of cinematography like Wes Anderson in The French Dispatch and does not capitalize on the riveting drama of a true-story-based film like Spielberg in Catch Me If You Can.
The movie at its best is clean and, despite the long length, every plot point is neatly fleshed out in a well-paced manner. For those who did not know the true story going into the movie, it provides plot twists at just the right moments and smoothly uses the soundtrack to keep the story moving. The central plot surrounding Patrizia (Lady Gaga) and Maurizio Gucci’s (Adam Driver) relationship is engaging and easy to follow. However, some scenes lack the dramatic emotions that audiences are used to seeing in Lady Gaga and Adam Driver’s prior acting roles. The film leaves you questioning who the true villain of the story is. Perhaps this lack of a clear protagonist is what frustrates many viewers. But, of course, this is often present when making a movie out of a real-life event.
Other viewer frustrations stemmed from the accents. Scott decided to utilize almost entirely English dialogue with the addition of Italian accents. Though the choice was likely meant to respect the Gucci family’s Italian heritage, it did not sit well with many audience members. Viewers were quick to take to Twitter and compare Jared Leto’s goofy character’s accent to that of a Super Mario series character.
A slight sense of disappointment also came from the overall lack of a consistent emphasis on fashion in the movie. Scott intended the movie to focus more on the family dynamics and relational aspects that led to the breakdown of the Gucci family’s ownership of the fashion company. While significant moments depict the history of Gucci’s journey in the fashion industry and even give several nods to fashion contemporaries to the family such as Tom Ford and Anna Wintour, audiences still felt there should have been more shown from the world of design in Gucci’s journey to the top of high fashion.
Unfortunately, the highest criticism of the movie came from none other than the real-life Gucci family themselves. Their statement denounced the movie’s depiction of the Gucci family, finding insult in how the movie portrayed Aldo Gucci (played by Al Pacino) and Paolo Gucci (played by Jared Leto). In a fuming response in an interview with Total Film, Ridley Scott explained that Leto’s character had been embellished for comedic expression and rhetorically asked “how could they be better represented than by Al Pacino? Excuse me! You probably have the best actors in the world, you should be so f*ck*ng lucky.”
Despite the controversy, the movie does what it promises. It entertains, tells a story based on real-life events and does so with the elegance associated with Gucci fashion today. Will the funky use of Italian accents over English dialogue played by American actors hinder the movie’s long-term success? Or will the meticulously delicate mise-en-scene and A-list cast push the movie beyond such controversy and criticism? One thing is for sure: despite their disagreement with the casting and depictions in the movie, the Gucci family story now lives on beside their legacy in the fashion world.