Life imitates art. The proof is in the Gucci tuxedo Jared Leto wore to The Met Gala earlier this month. Although his vintage-looking ensemble didn’t meet the 2022 Gilded Glamor theme, its tacky playfulness was amusing nonetheless. The same can be said for Leto’s over-the-top (and Razzie-winning) turn as Paolo Gucci in Ridley Scott’s streaming movie House of Gucci (2021).
Based on Sara Gay Forden’s book “The House of Gucci: A True Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed” (2000), Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna’s screenplay mirrors Jodie Turner-Smith’s Gucci Gala getup: flashy but lacking in coverage. Despite taking more than two and a half hours to relay the rise and fall of the famous family’s empire, the film omits key characters, such as Gucci’s executive vice president and chief designer Dawn Mello, as it flits from one story to another in a style-over-substance manner.
At the center of the melodrama is Maurizio Gucci. Adam Driver’s portrayal of the heir to the fashion dynasty is akin to Gucci’s Gilded Age attire adorning Met attendee Joshua Jackson. Each meet the standards to get the job done. On the other hand, Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci and Jeremy Irons as Rodolfo Gucci phone in their performances and struggle with their Italian accents.
To embody Maurizio’s social climbing wife and murderess Patrizia Reggiani, Lady Gaga used her ear for music to mimic the real life femme fatale’s accent so it sounds distinctly Italian, opposed to Italian-American. The singer’s feat is appreciated since it doesn’t contribute to the disproportionate amount of Italian-Americans caricatured as gangsters on film.
Gaga properly prepped for her part and darkened her hair, as did Met guest Billie Eilish. Determined to adopt an ensemble within the Gilded Age period (1870 to 1910), Eilish’s team customized her Gucci corset and padded bustle to echo the John Singer Sargent portrait of Madame Paul Poirson (1885). But while both of the Oscar-winning composers are naturals at singing, they appear too self-aware when acting on film or posing on the Red Carpet.
Salma Hayek seems more at ease in her skin as she delivers an amusing depiction of psychic Pina Auriemma. Yet, as offbeat as her character is, even she wouldn’t put on a Gucci fortune teller costume. So why did Gala guest Jessica Chastain, especially when the dress is reminiscent of the 1940s? Only the magic 8-ball knows.
The Gucci jumpsuit on Met attendee Dakota Johnson is also arguably off theme. However, she managed to wear it in a relatively understated way. Likewise, French actress Camille Cottin plays Maurizio’s mistress, Italian interior designer Paola Franchi, with subtlety.
Perhaps Gucci’s biggest Met success is the black tailcoat with pleats on Finneas. His on-theme outfit accurately reflects the past while being fashion forward. Similarly, Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography aesthetically weds the film’s period settings with timeless views of Rome, Milan and Aosta, Italy.
In fact, it’s difficult not to enjoy a movie that pairs gorgeous scenery with classical numbers and vintage hits. Yet when the playlist uses Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and “I’ve Got Your Number” by Jack Jones, both from American Hustle (2013), it becomes derivative. Plus, it doesn’t help that Jack Huston is in both of these 1970s-set flicks. Apparently, his presence resembles Anderson .Paak’s retro-inspired Gucci garb.
Overall, House of Gucci is most like the Gucci gown Awkwafina wore to the Gala. It’s kind of fun and put together by professionals. Alas, it’s not focused enough to be classy or outrageous enough to be campy. It’s somewhere in between which is all over the place.