House of Gucci sees director Ridley Scott dishing up a delicious and scandalous affair, packed to the brim with eccentric and villainous characters.

At a spry 84 years of age and with two major film releases this year alone, director Ridley Scott is, somehow, running laps around his youthful contemporaries. Right off the back of The Last Duel, Scott has delivered House of Gucci, a passion project since the early 2000s when he first acquired the rights to author Sara Gay Forden’s book The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed. The synopsis is best summed up in that book’s crazy title.

House of Gucci opens with that classic “Inspired by True Events” title card, which suggests that the movie is a highly stylised interpretation of the actual story, but not quite the actual story. And that’s fine because what Scott has dished up is a delicious and scandalous affair, packed to the brim with eccentric and villainous characters. In fact, it isn’t a stretch to describe it as a melodramatic reimagining of The Godfather (no kidding, there are plenty of parallels).

For those unaware, Gucci is a luxurious Italian fashion brand founded in the 1920s, which has remained one of the most prestigious names in the fashion world. Beginning in 1978, House of Gucci chronicles the romance and courtship between working class woman Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and the heir to the Gucci dynasty, Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver). She is a boisterous and calculating woman, while he is mild-mannered and reserved type. Despite his family’s reservations towards her, they marry and begin a life contrary to the Gucci legacy.

Time elapses and the family dynamics weave a twisted tale of greed and treachery, the likes of which wouldn’t be out of place on a daytime soap opera.

Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino play the company’s founders, the Gucci brothers, who hold tight to their traditions, with Adam Driver and Jared Leto playing their respective sons. All focus is on Maurizio succeeding his ailing father, whereas Paolo (Leto) is disregarded as the idiot of the family, whose own fantasies of fashion design are too outrageous and absurd for the Gucci name. When Patrizia marries Maurizio and becomes a member of the family, she charges ahead like a bull at a red rag, looking to gain as much control through manipulation as possible.

It’s all such hideous stuff and there are no agreeable or redeeming characters in the whole sordid story, a fact that Ridley Scott relishes. In depicting this tale of wealth and privilege, he’s invested the film with a kitsch veneer, opting for a heightened and tawdry telling rather than an exploratory one. Not only does this approach facilitate a strong melodrama, it also allows the cast to play with outrageous Italian accents, with varying degrees of success.

The cast are all exceptional, although with those uneven accents it’s difficult to determine whether the performances are good because of their freedom to push the limits of exaggeration, or if they’re actually just bad at accents. Let’s assume the former.

Pacino delivers another classic turn as the imposing figurehead, who is as energetic as he is ruthless. Irons plays a more reserved type, holding true to tradition and resistant to change. Lady Gaga is undeniably impressive in a performance that confirms her headlining role in A Star is Born was no fluke; watching her escalating character arc from middle-class secretary to haughty socialite unfold is wonderful.

Adam Driver also knocks this one out of the park and appears to relish the incredible story arc of his character. His transformation is the most unassuming and outrageous of the lot, and Driver offers a performance worthy of accolades. Leto provides the comic relief as the dimwitted and ridiculed son whose potential remains ambiguous. He’s both hilarious and tragic, delivering his best performance of the last several years under a thick layer of prosthetics.

Gucci aficionados will lap up Scott’s fly-on-the-wall – albeit fanciful – account of the family dynasty, while newcomers to the story should enjoy it without expectation or anticipation of where the tale is heading.

In cinemas: January 1, 2022
Starring: Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, Al Pacino
Directed by: Ridley Scott