House of Gucci:"Gucci is what I say it is"
As cinematic sagas, Corleone and Skywalker are family dynasties that resonate with film audiences. The Godfather chronicles the fictional Corleone Mafia family’s enterprises while Star Wars spans the exploits of the Skywalker clan a long time ago across a galaxy far, far away. Both sagas transcend time and place to create memorable and enduring characters that define their cinematic worlds while providing audiences a sense of excitement and enthralling, complex stories.
The House of Gucci: Aldo, Rodolpho, Paolo, Patrizia, Maurizio
Director Ridley Scott has based his sights firmly on another family dynasty, Gucci, set in one of the most prominent and successful fashion houses in the world. Their success, wealth and influence is breathtaking. There is no bigger name than Gucci and their wealth and privilege is beyond the grasp of ordinary mortals. The Gucci dynasty started much smaller, on Tuscany, when Aldo (Al Pacino) and Rodolpho (Jeremy Irons) Gucci’s father raised cattle that were treated like royalty to produce the finest leather to shape into designer handbags. Aldo and Rodolpho now control and rule the House of Gucci to ensure the tradition, quality and desirability of Gucci is undiminished.
Therein lies the problem. Rodolpho is conservative and traditional in his view of how Gucci operates and the approach to designs and styles that have been unchanged since the company was established. Aldo’s share of the business operates from his New York office. Aldo sums up Gucci’s mark in the world of fashion when he says, “Gucci is what I say it is”.
New, young designers are revolutionising the fashion industry by introducing new fabrics, contemporary designs and a fresh attitude that are exciting customers and setting design houses on a different trajectory to the staid, established approach used by Gucci. Even Aldo’s son Paolo (Jared Leto) introduces designs that are eventually accepted by rivals and Gucci alike, yet rejected outright by Rodolpho, to Paolo’s dismay and frustration.
Patrizia & Maurizio Gucci: a new force in the House of Gucci
The new interruption to Gucci’s model of luxury clothing is Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), whose father owns a trucking company, She sets her sights on Rodolpho’s son, the reserved Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), who wants to be a lawyer and isn’t overly concerned about the Gucci’s business dealings. Patrizia’s influence on Maurizio is crucial, critical and persuasive. She is strong, powerful, decisive, manipulative, and vulnerable. He slowly turns from a mild-mannered bystander to a calculating and heartless manipulator of people, including Aldo, Rodolpho, Paolo and, eventually, Patrizia.
The Gucci’s hesitancy and impending irrelevancy about moving into contemporary fashion is manipulated by Youssef Kerkour (Nemir Kirdar), a wealthy and powerful corporate raider who is more concerned about profitability than fashion.
Patrizia Gucci exudes Gucci style & luxury
House of Gucci is a story that extends the boundaries of the wealthy and privileged family Gucci. They built their business on quality, tradition and the expectations of their customers that they are buying not just a fashion label but an identity synonymous wth luxury. As Aldo Gucci explains, a rich socialite doesn’t buy Gucci clothing or a Gucci handbag because she wants to buy clothing; her genuine Gucci article is a sign of her position and standing in society and the world of the ultra-rich. It also reflects her self-worth.
For those who scoff at the self-importance of haute couture, you might like to replay this scene from The Devil Wears Prada as fashion publisher and high priestess of global fashion Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streeo) explains the lineage of a blue sweater bought from a bargain bin in a department store.
No matter how big the name, there is enough scandal, intrigue, betrayal, business treachery, illegal trading and dubious moral behaviour to unravel even the biggest of fashion houses at its seams. Gucci is no different. Their downfall is characterised by greed, corruption, a sense of complacency and the expectation that they will prevail regardless of external forces or the changing of the fashion industry’s new blood and modernistic thinking.
That brings me to the accents in the film. On the one hand, House of Gucci is a major Hollywood movie directed by a powerhouse filmmaker, Ridley Scott, and studded with star power such as Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Jared Leto. You expect a Hollywood production of this magnitude to use Hollywood talent. An option could have been to drop the imitation accents and let the dialogue and performances carry the power of the ideas. In this era of cultural and social authenticity, Hollywood could have carried House of Gucci with Italian actors, both young and old, from the Italian and the American film industries with names well-known and lesser-know that would have added impact to the story behind House of Gucci.
Italian Actors in Hollywood
As it is, Lady Gaga manages to maintain a consistent accent, even though it sounds Eastern European as much as it is Italian. Adam Driver barely manages to sustain anything resembling an Italian accent and often slips into speaking like Adam Driver. Al Pacino has the most fun with the language and manages to maintain authenticity because his side of Gucci crosses Italian and American cultures and he also uses his hands to do the talking. Looking at the matter of accents, on the other hand, it's called acting, although the accents still are irregular and variable.
That’s all a case of what could have or should have been rather than the movie Ridley Scott directed in the way he chose to make it. In the end, that’s not how it played out. It’s Ridley Scott’s movie and the decisions he made are his to decide and own.
The Accents in House of Gucci
The Cut, by Claire Lampen, November 2021
Slate, Heather Schwedel, November 2021
BLAST by Kristin Myers, November, 2021
In a minor point akin to the Italian accents is the soundtrack. The songs on the soundtrack are a mix of original English version songs interspersed with Italian songs including, “Sono Bugiarda (I’m A Believer—yes, the same song performed originally by The Monkees)” sung by Caterina Caselli in Italian. It’s not a problem, more of a curiosity, similar to the choice of accents.
House of Gucci is uneven. Just when we think Ridley Scott has hooked us into the story, he breaks stride with accents that fail, moments that lapse into caricature and unintended humour. Even the loveable Aldo is not innocent when it comes to his business dealings. There is plenty of decay in the House of Gucci. After all, House of Gucci is a fashion house built on fabric and leather that collapses by the weigh of its own hubris.
You won’t be disappointed with House of Gucci and the fall of a dynasty, but when you stick all the pieces together, you have a roughly sewn, irregular result.
The strength of the power struggles, emotional malice and business deceit carry the film but the inconsistencies along the way detract from the binding of the film as a strong unified whole.
Official Trailer House of Gucci
Movie stills, official trailer & movie poster © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer | Bron Creative | Scott Free Productions
FILM EXTRAS: FASHION MOVIES
Bill Cunningham: New York (2010)
Before the release of this documentary, Bill Cunningham was recognisable only to in-the-known fashion insiders. The late street style photographer was a total eccentric, and his musings on the role of fashion ("it's the armour to survive the reality of day-to-day-life") are touching. He, his blue jacket and his bicycle have become the stuff of fashion legend in the film's aftermath.