The moment Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani crosses her heart and swears to “Father, son and House of Gucci,” director Ridley Scott struck a kind of Hollywood gold.
Just from the film trailers alone, the line of dialogue has already entered the pop culture pantheon of camp — like in “Valley of the Dolls”: “I have to get up at five o’clock in the morning and sparkle, Neely, sparkle!” Or from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”: “Dammit, Janet, I love you.”
There are bootleg T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase for sale on the internet and “House of Gucci” doesn’t even open in theaters until Wednesday.
Media reviews of the film were embargoed until today, but reactions on social media have been mixed. Some people who have seen advance screenings have called it an amusing satire. And Scott has said that’s what he was going for — satire. Other viewers have deemed it overstuffed and unfocused, while a few have praised it as a masterpiece, sparking early buzz for Gaga and Driver in the Oscars race.
To me, it was a telenovela but not quite enough of one, with the actors committing to satire in varying degrees. Gaga was riveting (and apparently ad-libbed that catch phrase). And whether you think Jared Leto’s approach was brilliant or it bombed, he was so in the zone, he was practically unrecognizable in the role.
I wonder how casual moviegoers who don’t know the intricacies of Italian inheritance taxes, for example, will follow the occasional plot gaps if they haven’t read former Milan bureau chief Sara Gay Forden’s original book, but that’s a small quibble. The accents are another topic for debate, with Gaga sounding more Russian than Italian, and Al Pacino more “Godfather” goombah than Gucci.
From a broader perspective though, the film succeeds in putting the family back in Gucci. So many brands today are trying to claim a generational legacy, but very few, aside from Missoni perhaps, actually have the feel of a family business.
The actual Gucci family may no longer be involved in the brand, but the film gives them a whole new Hollywood legacy. Sure, it’s not the family history most luxury brands have in mind when they spin romantic tales of heritage, but just before Thanksgiving, it’s a family as crazy as your own. There’s something brilliant in that.
How many people have a black sheep (or sexy stallion, ahem) of a brother like Driver’s Maurizio Gucci who ultimately ends up being the golden child? Or an over-the-top ex-wife like Gaga’s Reggiani (albeit maybe not one who’d resort to hiring a hitman)? How about a fast-talking uncle like Pacino’s Aldo Gucci, or a goofy, underachieving one with a receding hairline and a penchant for pastel suits like Leto’s Paolo Gucci?
The Guccis — glamorous but dysfunctional, just like us.
Jeremy Irons is beguiling as patriarch Rodolfo Gucci (a former actor shut in his plush Milanese villa like Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”), it’s a hoot to see Jack Huston as the ever-loyal, yet maneuvering Domenico de Sole, and Reeve Carney as a baby Tom Ford showing his first collection — especially for those who lived through it.
The film delights in taking viewers to the best of Milan, including historic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele; the Duomo, where you can almost taste the panzerotti Gaga and Driver share in the square, and glittering Via Montenapoleone. St. Moritz has not looked so jet-set glamorous since the James Bond films, and the 1980s skiwear is fab.
There are some odd bits — Leto pissing on a Gucci scarf, and a weirdly unnecessary Anna Wintour cameo, as if it wouldn’t be a movie about fashion without her.
And there is so much in-your-face Gucci product, including a protracted “Pretty Woman”-like shopping scene, that I spent the first half of the film wondering if Gucci was secretly behind the whole thing. Especially since Salma Hayek, wife of Gucci parent company boss François-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive officer of Kering, has a role in the film as a psychic. Coincidence or just clever casting? Leto is also a current Gucci ambassador, of course.
Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele and CEO Marco Bizzari are name-checked at the end of the film, alongside Tom Ford and De Sole, for their contributions to the staggering growth of the brand once Maurizio Gucci finally stepped aside, severing the family connection.
According to brand representatives, the extent of Gucci’s official involvement in the film was providing a couple of archival pieces to costume designer Janty Yates, who did a wonderful job of creating the bourgeois look of the family members contrasted with Gaga’s kitschy ’80s seductress, and focusing in on details such as Driver’s well-tailored suits, logo cufflinks and killer aviator eyeglasses, sure to spark a trend. (Little secret: Gucci actually didn’t make men’s suits when Maurizio was around, so the men all wore another legendary Italian label — Ermenegildo Zegna — which has reproduced their wardrobes for the movie.)
Everyone looks good, but is the film good? Does it really matter?
Gaga fans will go gaga, Adam Driver-sexy-centaur lovers will hop aboard for his wicked charm, and fashion aficionados will flock to the film out of sheer curiosity. (In addition to holding star-studded red carpet premieres in four cities, to which Gucci invited some special clients and guests, MGM has mounted a “House of Gucci” exhibition at L.A.’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, where the film will also be screened.)
“I didn’t watch it, but I think the most beautiful thing about the movie is it proves that Gucci is pop,” said Michele, when I asked him about it in L.A., before he turned Hollywood Boulevard into a runway for his “Love Parade” collection, wrapping up the brand’s 100th anniversary with a star-studded spectacular. “I don’t care if it’s a good movie and maybe it’s not, but it proves Gucci can be everything.”
The timing couldn’t have been better, almost as if Hayek saw it in the stars.
Whether the wider public sees the film or not, just the fact that it exists in pop culture will remind them that the house of Gucci — glamorous, scandalous, over-the-top and a bit vulgar — is above all else endlessly entertaining.