Going Gaga for ‘House of Gucci’

David Matos, Associate Arts & Life Editor

Illustration by (Emma Kogel)

Lady Gaga traded her microphone and meat dress for a phony Italian accent and tight 80s perm in her portrayal as the vengeful, murderous and glamorous Patrizia Reggiani in the film, “House of Gucci.”

Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” released exclusively to movie theaters Nov. 24. The film is based on the 2000 biographical novel “House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed” written by Sara Gay Forden. Needless to say, the star-studded crime drama heavily lives up to the title.

The over-the-top production is an embellished retelling of the scandalous history of the Gucci family that once owned their Italian luxury fashion house of the same name.

The film isn’t the typical story about some good old-fashioned family drama that ends with a choreographed dance number and hugs. It’s quite the opposite.

“House of Gucci” is a perfect combination of “The Godfather” and “Cruella,” a fusion I could never foresee. It’s a story of two outsiders whose humble beginnings evolve into the classic villain origin story with a sprinkle of murder, Italian mafia-style.

The leading characters in the “House of Gucci” are Reggiani and her ex-husband Maurizio Gucci, played by Adam Driver.

The pair met at a masquerade party where Reggiani mistakes Maurizio for a bartender. Driver’s character is an aspiring and even-tempered lawyer who wants nothing more than to remove himself from the Gucci fashion house and legacy of his name. Gaga’s passive and put-together character works for her father’s transportation company. Driver and Gaga surprisingly make a beautiful couple with every scene of them falling in love more and more believable.

Their devotion for each other was most apparent when Rodolfo Gucci, played by Jeremy Irons, demands his son, Maurizio, to not marry Reggiani as he perceives the then 25-year-old as a gold digger. Maurizio goes ahead and ties the knot with Reggiani despite his father’s wishes.

The Gucci clan temporarily disowns Maurizio, but the chemistry between Gaga and Driver was so strong that broken family ties and the loss of an immense fortune didn’t dare separate the couple.

However, the Italian fairy tale later shifts into a hellish divorce when Uncle Aldo, played by Al Pacino, is charmed by Reggiani’s wit and style and welcomes her into the family and business. This is a huge mistake on Aldo’s part as Gaga’s character transitions from unassertive commoner to a greedy businesswoman as soon as her perfectly polished claws are one stiletto heel closer to the Guccis’ fortune.

One of the film’s strongest attributes was the decade-appropriate clothing and hairstyles. The movie spanned about two decades from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. The movement of time was made especially obvious through Gaga’s character whose head-to-toe gaudiness was fitting for each era represented.

Gaga’s performance as Reggiani can be described in one word — brilliant. As the pop star only has one movie role as Ally in “A Star is Born,” a character that doesn’t stray too far from Gaga’s real-life persona, my expectations for her newest role as the money-hungry and rather villainous Reggiani were pretty lukewarm.

However, Gaga successfully translated the complicated real-life character onto the big screen. Her passion for the role was most apparent in her visible emotions and believability in her larger-than-life portrayal. She undoubtedly held her own alongside more experienced actors like Pacino and Salma Hayek.

Hayek played Pina Auriemma, a television fortune-teller who befriends Reggiani. My main issue with Hayek’s portrayal is her lack of any substance or motivation. Auriemma is a recurring character who seems to only pop up when Reggiani enters a drastic phase in her family feud and needs reaffirmation. It’s not made clear why Auriemma continues to help Reggiani which makes the fortune teller’s part in the film’s murderous conclusion rather confusing.

Though there were some flaws in the storytelling, the inclusion of era-appropriate music was ingenious. The film’s soundtrack ranged from Donna Summer’s “On the Radio,” David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” and New Order’s “Blue Monday.”

However, the addition of Caterina Caselli’s 1967 song “Sono Bugiarda,” the Italian “I’m a Believer,” was a bit distracting to say the least. Smash Mouth’s more well-known 2001 cover of the song that’s commonly associated with the “Shrek” movie franchise was all I could think of while Driver was getting to work at the Reggiani transportation company.

A character that was just as out of place as the inclusion of a song straight off the “Shrek” soundtrack was Jared Leto’s portrayal of Aldo’s idiotic son, Paolo. Leto’s unrecognizable aged-up appearance, thanks to what appears to be extreme makeup prosthetics, paired with his high-pitched dialect and disarranged antics seemed more fitting for a “Saturday Night Live” skit than a biographical movie meant to take inspiration from a real-life Italian crime story. Assuming Leto’s choice to take his character down a more cartoonish route was intentional as he has had similar criticism for his attempt as the Joker in “Suicide Squad,” it does not work in the “House of Gucci.” Leto’s attempt at being the comic relief wasn’t the only thing in shambles. Everyone’s Italian accents were quite laughable and seemed as if they all took inspiration from the Super Mario Bros for their depictions.

Overall, for a film that stinks of cigarettes and sweaty businessmen, I actually was decently satisfied with the complex experience that is “House of Gucci.” The enticing world manufactured to recreate a growing romance turned court transcript was triumphantly accomplished. The movie displayed nearly every actor at their best and despite the nearly three-hour-long runtime, every scene was engaging enough to maintain your focus throughout the whole movie.