By John Mulderig | Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Is “House of Gucci” (MGM) the real article or a trashy knock-off? Whether considered artistically or morally, the answer would have to be, something in between.
Aesthetically, and despite its tragic conclusion, for most of its running time this fact-based dynastic saga, fueled by tumultuous emotions, has the feel of a high-end soap opera. Call it an extended episode of “Dallas” transplanted from the world of Texas oil barons to the runways of Milan.
Although it’s mostly ethically respectable, moreover, as scripted by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna, director Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Sara Gay Forden’s 2001 book “The House of Gucci” includes an unnecessarily explicit liaison between its two principals that severely restricts its appropriate audience. Indeed, although glossy and well-acted, the film is a hothouse affair from beginning to end.
A chance meeting at a party in the 1970s leads to a romance between Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), the middle-class daughter of a trucking executive, and Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) who, despite his famous lineage, is quietly studying law, not fashion. Defying the opposition of Maurizio’s imperious father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), who initially regards Patrizia as a gold-digger, the couple eventually marries.
Unambitious and wary of his relatives, Maurizio would rather steer clear both of his family’s business empire and of its tangled relationships. But passionate Patrizia has other ideas. So together they become caught up in the shifting alliances and rivalries among Rodolfo, his bon vivant brother and business partner Aldo (Al Pacino) and Aldo’s eccentric, harebrained son, Paolo (Jared Leto).
Patrizia and Maurizio have a church wedding, but otherwise religion plays no part in their lives. In fact, Patrizia takes to consulting Pina Auriemma (Salma Hayek), a fortuneteller she first encounters by watching her call-in TV show.
As she and Maurizio begin to have angry quarrels, and he takes up with his childhood friend Paola Franchie (Camille Cottin), Patrizia, increasingly desperate, becomes ever more dependent on Pina. Their superstition-based bond turns out to have malignant consequences.
Everyone on screen is clearly having a field day. Yet it’s sobering to recall that a happy ending awaited few if any of the real people the cast is portraying. Nonetheless, those grown-ups willing to overlook its fleeting detour into offensiveness may find “House of Gucci” a guilty pleasure.
The film contains a scene of graphic premarital sexual activity, including an aberrant act, a glimpse of rear nudity, an adultery theme, cohabitation, momentary irreverence, at least one use of profanity, a couple of milder oaths as well as frequent rough and occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.