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Sunday, December 5, 2021

House of Gucci, review: Lady Gaga struts away with the most memeable film of the year

  • 15 cert, 158 mins. Dir: Ridley Scott

Remember when film stars were allowed to wobble? Before the current vogue for cosmetic sculpting and swingeing fitness regimes, when an actor or actress’s image didn’t just come down to their appearance, but their ability to make you feel the heat and ripple of their physical presence? Lady Gaga certainly does – and, in her first screen role since 2018’s A Star is Born, seems to be on a one-woman mission to bring back the glory days. 

In House of Gucci, the 35-year-old singer turned actress heaves, flails, stews, broods, jiggles and billows with the very best of them, usually in (though sometimes out of) an impressive range of deafening outfits. In a film set in the world of Italian couture, here is a thrillingly unfashionable performance – harking back to Claudia Cardinale and Sophia Loren in its freeness, wit and sheer carnal chutzpah.

It may have been decades since a studio production last had the nerve to stage a scene as funny and sexy as the one here in which Gaga and Salma Hayek sit side by side in a mud bath, larding their bosoms with gunge, and weighing the relative merits of hexing a foe with black magic and simply having him shot in the head. Fellini himself would have applauded, once his eyeballs had stopped bobbing around on springs.

I only wish I could report that Ridley Scott’s new film – the 83-year-old master’s second this year, after October’s The Last Duel – managed to match its lead actress’s pace for its entire two-and-a-half hour duration. But while House of Gucci is never less than watchably raucous, it’s also essentially a soap opera with airs, rambling along from episode to episode without ever settling into its stride. 

It was adapted by Becky Johnson and Roberto Bentivegna from Sara Gay Forden’s 2001 book of the same name, about the nouveau-riche socialite Patrizia Reggiani (Gaga) and her unlikely and unruly marriage to Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), the one-time heir to the Gucci fortune, who was assassinated on the steps of his Milan office in 1995.

The fact that the major cast members can’t seem to agree on what kind of film they’re actually making is one of its most glaring hitches – and also one of its ripest pleasures. As Maurizio, Driver is operating on roughly the same plane as Gaga: his callow but curious upper-class scion makes a sparky foil for her sexually shrewd, social-climbing bride. (They also share an instantly legendary love scene, in which the two go at one another with all the tenderness of a hydraulic road drill.)

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