Of all the movies coming out this holiday season, “House of Gucci” seems to be the buzziest. The trailers make it seem like a campy tale of love and lust, fashion and power, betrayal and deception, with a deliciously intense Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, the common interloper who marries into the famous Italian designer family and ultimately brings it to ruin.
The trailers are partly right, but also somewhat misleading. The first part of “House of Gucci” is fun, as we watch Gaga embrace the role of seducer to Adam Driver’s rather meek Maurizio Gucci, who is studying law and seems to have little interest in joining the family business run by his aloof father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) and his garrulous uncle Aldo (Al Pacino).
But it’s rather clear, from the way that Patrizia’s eyes light up when she hears the last name of her new acquaintance, that Gaga’s cougar is going to get Driver’s lamb, chewing the scenery along the way. And Gaga fully commits to chewing the scenery, along with co-star Jared Leto, who dons a bald cap and acts like an idiot as Paolo, the clueless, pigeon-obsessed son of Aldo.
And it’s also clear that the movie is headed for dark territory, with the eventual breakup of Patrizia and Maurizio — and Patrizia’s eventual hiring of a hit man to kill Maurizio. That arc completely changes the movie’s tone, and it’s no longer a fun bit of schlock but a seriously out-of-tune horse opera.
By the time it’s over, Patrizia has donned jeans to hire the hit men and acts more like Mercedes McCambridge’s butch character in “Touch of Evil” than the woman who earlier wore high fashion like it was second nature.
Oh, I suspect some of you want the details of the plot, so here goes. Girl meets rich boy. Girl seduces boy. Boy thinks he loves girl and takes her home to meet daddy. Daddy thinks she’s a gold digger. Boy defies daddy and marries her anyway. Daddy disinherits boy. Boy and girl have baby. Daddy relents. Meanwhile, girl meets boy’s uncle, who’s a bit of a sleaze and appreciates a schemer. The two bond — at least for a while.
And when boy and girl finally break up, it gets quite nasty. Boy hooks up with childhood friend Paola (Camille Cottin). Meanwhile, girl turns to the psychic Pina (Salma Hayek) to help her reclaim the Gucci fortune.
Now that that’s out of the way, it should be noted that Lady Gaga actually does a stellar job in the beginning of the movie. She’s a lowly underdog, so she is easy to root for.
There are also some campy gems, as when Patrizia tells Paola that she’s not particularly ethical and will fight for her man. And it’s also fun to watch the idiot Paolo pee on a lovely Gucci scarf in defiance of his uncle, who created it.
But I’d recommend savoring some of the details. For instance, Roldofo Gucci’s home is absolutely gorgeous. In actuality, it’s the Villa Necchi in Milan, and serves as a museum but once was the home of the Necchis, of course. The Necchis were an Italian sewing-machine dynasty.
Aldo Gucci’s home, meanwhile, is a Renaissance Paladian style home in Lake Como — originally the home of the Archbishop of Rome in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Production designer Arthur Max came up with these locations, as well as the designs for various Gucci retail establishments.
And for those of you from Austin, it’s fun to watch Texas’ Tom Ford take over as the top Gucci designer. He’s played by Reeve Carney, the American singer-songwriter who originated Broadway’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”
It’s likely that “House of Gucci” will fare far better at the box office that “Spider-Man” did on Broadway. And it should be pointed out that many reviewers think “House of Gucci” is just rooty-tooty. So go ahead and savor the schlock if you wish. Just be aware that it’s 2 hours and 38 minutes long.