FlixChatter Review: HOUSE OF GUCCI (2021)

House of Gucci is scandalous family feud set in the world of haute couture… a sensational story ripe for a cinematic adaptation. Apparently Ridley Scott has been wanting to film this since the book of the same name by Sara Gay Forden was released in 2000, which centers on the brutal murder of the heir of the Gucci fortune, Maurizio Gucci, by his ex-wife, Patrizia Reggiani. 

The film opens with a shot of Maurizio (Adam Driver), the heir of the Gucci fortune, looking dapper in a gray wool suit and oversized Aviators sitting at a Roman cafe. He rides a bicycle on cobblestone streets to his office and about to climb up the steps … well, the story then rewinds back as to the pivotal moment where it all began. You could say Maurizio and Patrizia’s romance began with a ‘meet cute’ at a costume party … I really think it wasn’t so much Maurizio’s looks that attracted her, but her eyes lights up when he said his name… ‘it was a name that sounded so sweet…’ indeed, Gucci is synonymous with wealth, style and power. The whirlwind romance doesn’t begin immediately, but after a bit of stalking, even down to the library where Maurizio was doing his research for his law degree, he finally falls for her… hook line and sinker.

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The first act establishes the two contrasting backgrounds of the two doomed lovers. Though not exactly poor (her stepfather actually owns a pretty successful trucking business), Patrizia always dreams of living the high life. Maurizio on the other hand, who’s been a Gucci all his life, seems unfazed by it all and was set on becoming a lawyer. In fact, he’s content with working at Patrizia’s trucking company when his snobbish, former silent-actor father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) cuts him out of the family for wanting to marry someone he deems unworthy and a gold digger. There’s a scene in the car with Patrizia where Maurizio scoffs at his dad for living in the past and that his grandpa Guccio Gucci who first started the company in Florence, started out as a bellhop London’s Savoy Hotel.

It’s Maurizio’s uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) who actually courts Maurizio into the family business, preferring his favorite nephew over his ‘idiot’ son Paolo (Jared Leto) who just never measures up to his father’s standards. The two brothers own half of the Gucci shares each but they clearly have differing visions for the company. In one of the meet ups, Rodolfo insists on quality-over-quantity and adamantly refuses the lucrative globalization approach Aldo is keen on. ‘No malls’ Rodolfo says to Aldo who really just wants to milk the business for all its worth.

Scott captures the lavish lifestyle and glamour of the ultra rich family… the set pieces, clothes, etc. were meticulously designed and they’re fun to watch. At one point, Aldo throws a lavish party on the patio of his 16th Century historical palazzo overlooking Lake Como. It’s enough to get one intoxicated by the glam, glitzy, decadent life of the ultra rich… Patrizia is practically tipsy over being a part of the Gucci family.

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The first act starts out quite well-paced, with a good sense of intrigue and fun. There’s even hilarious moments such as the loud wham-bam, jack-hammer style sex scene in a cramped office… the full-on campiness is quite amusing as it transitions to an elegant wedding in a church set to George Michael’s FAITH. I don’t mind the anachronism style, though those songs got me somewhat nostalgic and took me out of the movie a bit.

The fairy-tale life of being a Gucci queen seems to be within reach for Patrizia, especially after Maurizio inherits his father’s fortune following his death. I think the film would’ve been more effective if it knows just exactly which Gucci tale it wants to tell. Screenwriters Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna starts out as focusing on the Maurizio/Patricia romance and their rise to power, which eventually tears them apart. As the film progresses, it concerns itself too much with the business side of the fashion label.

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It loses its narrative focus about midway through, thanks to its kitchen-sink storytelling approach, trying to cram as many intersecting storylines from how the cheap fake products are devaluing the Gucci brand to Paolo’s grand ambition to start his own label. The film glaringly forgets about Patrizia early in the third act during its repeated narrative detours, as it was too preoccupied with the battle between father-vs-son-vs-cousin subplot in the race to lead the company. ‘It’s time to take out the trash…’ Patrizia says at one point. If only that’d be applied to the film itself, which could use a much tighter editing scissor to trim its fat.

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The performances did keep me engaged though it’s pretty uneven. Even from its trailer, you know it’s Lady Gaga‘s movie. She totally owns it with her undeniable screen presence, there’s a gleam of madness in her eyes right from the moment she meets Maurizio and wants him all to herself. It helps that her character has the strongest arc in the film… she’s a driven woman who knows exactly what she wants and her narcissistic & overbearing personality clearly drives her husband away.

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Adam Driver is mesmerizing as Maurizio, displaying a disquieting restlessness in a subtle yet effective performance. Despite Maurizio being underwritten, Driver manages to elevate the character and makes him more than one-dimensional. Plus he looks like a bazillion dollars in those sharp suits and the way he carries himself. There’s a hint of ruthless ambition seething underneath his calm demeanor, but there’s almost no transition from the mild-mannered, passive guy to a callous, spendthrift, power-hungry douchebag. Even the romance between him and his mistress Paola Franchi (Camille Cottin) has zero sparks and seems inconsequential despite its actual impact in the real story. Having seen how fiery Cottin is in the Call My Agent! series, this role is such a waste of her talents.

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I was hoping for something indelible when Patrizia, in a blood-red ski outfit, sits down next to Paola and delivers threatening lines like ‘I subscribe to unconventional punishment.’ Disappointingly, the whole thing goes down in an unremarkable way. Same with the ‘Father, Son and House of Gucci’ scene when Paolo asks Patrizia if she can keep a secret… it looks so deliriously juicy in the trailer, but it doesn’t have the same impact in the film.

Speaking of which, Jared Leto in a fat suit and prosthetic makeup is too busy chewing the scenery to portray someone resembling a real person. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s done a good job here portraying the much-maligned Paolo who never gets to spread his creative wings. I just think he veers way over the top in his boorish performance that the character becomes a complete caricature. I suppose Leto often goes well above and beyond the call of duty whenever he portrays a real person, though I wonder if he does it for the attention more so than a dedication to his craft.

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Interestingly enough, Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino seem to have similar approaches as the actors playing their respective sons… Irons is all sinister sneering with simmering rage like Driver, while Pacino hams it up with exaggerated hand gestures that reminds me a bit of his performance in Scent Of A Woman. Salma Hayek looks like she’s having more fun here than in Eternals in a small role as a a high-society psychic who becomes close friends with Patrizia. It’s quite ironic to see her as the least wealthy character given that Hayek’s husband actually owns the Gucci brand now.

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As for the accents–everyone adopts a quasi Italian accent to varying degrees. I guess it’s to be expected as Scott never really concerns himself with getting the accents right for his characters. I mean, Russell Crowe’s Maximus is supposed to be a Spaniard in Gladiator but he speaks with more of a British accent, same with all the characters in The Last Duel who’re all supposed to be French.

In terms of direction, I have to admit that House of Gucci doesn’t feel like a Ridley Scott movie compared to his last film released this year, The Last of Duel. I’ve mentioned the script’s lack of focus, which leads to scenes feeling disjointed as some scenes get cut short as another 90s song starts again. Despite the fabulous European locations, the cinematography by Dariusz Wolski isn’t all that remarkable… I can’t even name a single one perfect shot from this movie. Neither is the music by Harry Gregson-Williams, all I remember are the 90s songs, I bet much of the large budget goes towards song licensing.

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The style MVP is definitely costume designer Janty Yates in creating the 90s looks befitting of the fashion-centric movie. I enjoy seeing the various suits and outfits worn by the cast, especially Driver who undergoes quite a style transformation from the dweeby sweaters in his college years to the sharp bespoke suits as Maurizio gains more power and drowns in debt.

It’s a testament to this outlandish tale that I still find the movie quite immersive despite its flaws. I was absorbed in the wild, crazy ride throughout its 2 hours 37 min running time. It actually took me a few days to ‘recover’ from this story, as I watched all kinds of YouTube videos about the Gucci family following the film. It is so tragic that the once-unrivaled fashion empire that’s been created three quarter of a century ago ends up being destroyed by its own family rivalry. Truth really is stranger than fiction!

Given how sensational this story is, you’d think the film would’ve been more impactful and indelible. If it were a meticulously-tailored bespoke suit, House of Gucci seems to have all the right material to put it together. Alas, the execution (no pun intended) doesn’t quite measure up.

2-half Reels


Have you seen HOUSE OF GUCCI? Well, what did YOU think?

This Just In! HOUSE OF GUCCI trailer 2

Ok, I rarely post a movie trailers more than once, but I’ve been quite obsessed with the first trailer of HOUSE OF GUCCI that dropped last July. I think that first trailer shows just how a well-made preview can REALLY make a huge impact. I had forgotten the movie is even coming out this year, but as soon as I saw the trailer, it jumped to my most-anticipated holiday movie!!

I’ve mentioned in the previous trailer post about the plot… but here it is again:

Spanning three decades of love, betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately murder, we see what a name means, what it’s worth, and how far a family will go for control.

The story is based on a book of the same name by Sara Gay Forden, she has covered the Italian fashion industry from Milan for more than 15 years. Her book centers on the brutal 1995 murder of Maurizio Gucci (Driver), the grandson of the Gucci company founder, by his ex-wife, Patrizia Reggiani.

Given my crushing for Adam Driver, I’m obviously giddy that I’ll be seeing him in another new movie this year… What inspired casting to have the Midwestern-raised actor as Italian royalty, after playing a French knight in The Last Duel, no less. Hey, why not? He looks as perfectly natural riding a horse as he is driving a Lamborghini Countach. Adam can play anything, in any accent, he’s just THAT good.

But even from these trailers, it’s clear this is a Lady Gaga film… her presence is magnetic and undeniable even amongst a throng of mostly-male ensemble cast. I’ve loved her performance in A Star Is Born, but she looks like she’s really having a good time here and it shows. Will there be another Best Actress Oscar nomination coming her way? My gut says yes, I think she’d be competing with Kristen Stewart for her portrayal as Lady Diana in SPENCER.

Glad to see Jack Huston in a small supporting role as well, He’s a terrific actor who’s kind of underrated, so I’m always happy to see him pop up every now and again.

This movie arrives just in time for THANKSGIVING on November 24, it’ll be the perfect movie to watch with your whole family (the more dysfunctional the better, ha!) I’m waiting with bated breath for the press screening, I’d even take a half day off if it’s during the day!!

The ensemble cast is amazing! In the supporting roles we’ve got Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, and Salma Hayek. I’m also excited to see Camille Cottin (one of my faves in Call My Agent!), I sure hope this one will be a hit for Ridley Scott, as The Last Duel ends up being a box office dud. For sure this looks like a far more entertaining and fun movie to watch in the more stylish, colorful world of the 80s instead of the morose, titanium-gray Medieval times!

Now, back to Adam… I cannot wait to see him trade those silver armor with luxurious, nicely-cut suits and those fabulous oversized aviator specs. He looks like a million bucks as Maurizio Gucci!!

Whoever cuts these trailers ought to get some awards, I’ve watched the first one countless times and this one is just as great. LOVE the use of another iconic 80s song, this time EurythmicsSweet Dreams (Are Made of This) which perfectly captures the glamor, madness, power and the sweet sound of GUCCI, of course it’s all fun and games until someone decides to ‘take out the trash.’

House of Gucci will be released on November 24.


What do you think of the second trailer? 

This Just In! Ridley Scott’s HOUSE OF GUCCI trailer

Dayum, Sir Ridley Scott is one busy filmmaker!! I feel like I’ve been posting his film just the other day, The Last Duel, and I’m feeling de-ja-vu as we’ve got Adam Driver in the lead role once again. Eccellente! I think Adam should be in EVERY MOVIE, ehm. 

Full synopsis:

Spanning three decades of love, betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately murder, we see what a name means, what it’s worth, and how far a family will go for control.

Woo wee!! That’s one heck of a stylish trailer, it even starts out like a flashy Gucci commercial. I love Blondie’s Heart Of Glass song and now it’s stuck in my brain all over again. These fashion houses sure have real-life drama as intricate and juicy as their haute couture creations. The story is based on a book of the same name by Sara Gay Forden, she has covered the Italian fashion industry from Milan for more than 15 years. Her book centers on the brutal 1995 murder of Maurizio Gucci (Driver), the grandson of the Gucci company founder, by his ex-wife.

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Truth is stranger than fiction. I was actually just reading about what happened to Maurizio Gucci not too long ago, and his former wife Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) who served in jail for 18 years for hiring the hitman to kill him. Can’t say I have much sympathy for Maurizio though, as reportedly he left Patricia for a much younger woman, Paola Franchi (Camille Cottin) and lied that he was going on a business trip. Interesting to see Driver being cast as a narcissistic, cheating husband once again as he seems like a real nice bloke in real life. Clearly acting as someone opposite from you is far more fun.

I’ve been doing an Adam Driver marathon lately (which I’ll blog about in a couple of days!) so I’m super excited to see more of him in two highly-anticipated movies later this year! I love how he continually switch things up, this role can’t be more different from the one he’s doing in The Last Duel.

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I almost didn’t recognize Jared Leto and Jeremy Irons if it weren’t for the character posters, wow! Gaga is chewing the scenery as Patrizia, that last part of the trailer… ‘Father, Son and House of Gucci’ is a hoot! Per IMDb trivia, a slew of actresses the likes of Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Margot Robbie and Natalie Portman were considered for the role before Gaga was cast. I was really impressed with her in A Star Is Born, and this looks like a role she’s born to play. 

The star-studded cast also includes Al Pacino as the patriarch of the fashion empire, as well as Salma Hayek as Pina Auriemma, the clairvoyant friend of Patrizia who helped organized the hit on Maurizio. It’s inspired casting given Hayek is the wife of François-Henri Pinault, the billionaire Kering CEO who now owns the the Gucci brand.

I think since the on-set photos were circulating on social media back in Spring, practically everyone just became obsessed w/ this movie. I tried not to look at too many set photos and keep my enthusiasm in check until we actually see a trailer. Well now I am officially intrigued, I’ve seen this trailer a bazillion times in under two hours, ahah! 

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But apparently not everyone is enthused about this movie, according to AP News, the Gucci family isn’t keen on the movie, one of Maurizio’s cousins was quoted as saying that it was “… stealing the identity of a family to make a profit, to increase the income of the Hollywood system.” It’s always tricky to portray such a larger-than-life story based on a real family, though given the notoriety surrounding Maurizio’s murder, this is certainly the kind of twisted, glittering tale made for Tinseltown. Surely we can expect glamorous European locations, glitzy parties, fabulous fashion in this movie to go along with the wild and dark side of life in excess.

House of Gucci will be released on November 24.


What do you think of the trailer? 

Musings on TV Series Recently Watched: Howards End + Call My Agent! (Dix Pour Cent)

Ok so before we close out the month, I thought I do another quick review/commentary of some shows I’ve been enjoying. As most of us in the Upper Midwest are forced to hibernate thanks to the darn Polar Vortex, well, here are shows well worth binging on. Yes I’m well aware most of the shows I’ve been watching are European shows… as you know I’m a self-proclaimed Anglophile, and at times Francophile 😉

HOWARDS END

If you read my blog, you’d also know there are few period dramas I do not like, esp. those set in Britain! But believe it or not, I actually have not seen the film version of Howards End, despite my longtime love & admiration for Emma Thompson.

Howards End examines “the changing landscape of social and class divisions in turn-of-the-century England through the prism of three families: the intellectual and idealistic Schlegels, the wealthy Wilcoxes from the world of business and the working-class Basts.”

Well in a way that is a good thing as I’m largely unfamiliar about the story, based on the much-revered book by E. M. Forster. What intrigues me about this series was that it’s adapted by American writer/playwright Kenneth Lonergan and one of my all time fave British actress Hayley Atwell.

Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen

Besides Atwell, the film is boasted by a strong cast of Philippa Coulthard, Matthew Macfadyen & Tracey Ullman. Julia Ormond also has a small but important role as Ruth Wilcox, a conventional woman who’s the matriarch of the Wilcox family. I love that the story is encompasses SO many social themes and is so expertly-written that almost every dialog is captivating. I am constantly in awe of Atwell as I’m watching this, and Hettie MacDonald‘s direction of Lonergan’s story structure is simply marvelous. People who love constant action on a show/film might argue that few things happen in this movie, but for me, I appreciate the intricate layers of complexity the key characters face. The sharp contrast between Atwell’s Margaret Schlegel and Macfadyen’s Henry Wilcox is palpable and often frustrating to watch,  but the character transformation/redemption in the end is quite heart-wrenching.

Philippa Coulthard & Hayley Atwell as the Schlegel sisters

If I had to nitpick however, I’m not too fond of Joe Bannister as Charles Wilcox. Yes I know the character is supposed to be unsympathetic but must the actor also be utterly loathsome to watch? I’d also like to see a stronger actor than Joseph Quinn as Leonard Bast, overall he’s not memorable given how crucial his role is.

Overall I think the cast is really strong however, esp. the mesmerizing Hayley Atwell. As much as I’m a big fan of romantic period dramas, I also appreciate the fact that they downplay the romance here. Instead it’s more of a character study and astute commentary of social themes of the time (beginning of the 20th century), which deals with women’s emancipation as well as economic prejudices, etc. that are still relatable to today’s climate. I also appreciate the ‘color blind casting’ as they employed actors of color in traditionally white roles. Overall it’s a gorgeous miniseries that’s well-written and beautifully-filmed. In fact I don’t even mind rewatching it at some point as I might’ve missed some of the nuances of this complex story.


Call My Agent! (Dix Pour Cent)

Dix pour cent plunges us into the intense and madcap world of talent agents as we meet four colleagues who struggle to save their agency’s reputation after its founder’s death. With humor and wit, the agency partners juggle their chaotic personal lives with the needs of the demanding celebrities they represent.

I couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles but you should get the gist. The Netflix show has subtitles of course.

I started watching this show late last year and we immediately binged on two seasons within a week. A feast of cameos, esp. if you enjoy French cinema. But even if you aren’t you’d likely recognize big names like Monica Belluci, Isabelle Adjani and Jean Dujardin, Oscar-winner for The Artist.

Super agent Gabriel and his client miss Belluci

The cameos are fun as they’re basically playing themselves, but even without them, the show itself is well worth a watch. The show is apparently produced by former agent-to-the-stars Dominique Besnehard so he’s got the insider knowledge of what it takes to manage the careers of some of the top French talents/filmmakers. The lives of these agents at ASK here seem ‘stranger than fiction,’ probably more over-the-top and hysterical than the movies their clients star in. Some of the storylines may seem absurd, well some are inherently absurd, i.e. the constantly-overbooked Isabelle Hupert. But many actually have genuine intrigue and emotional resonance. A method actor who can’t escape a role as a woodsman, an older actress fighting a director set on filming her nude, a wanna-be agent maneuvering his career and his desire to be loved… and perhaps the most dramatic of all, a pregnant agent trying to comfort her lover as their daughter’s biological dad want more control. There’s even a childbirth scene right in the office!

Never a boring day at the ASK office

Even from season 1, I have come to adore the main characters. We get to know them more in season 3 and it’s tough to pick a favorite. I’m always amused by the shenanigans of super-agents Andréa Martel (Camille Cottin) and Mathias Barneville (Thibault de Montalembert), but I really feel for the plight of Gabriel Sarda (Grégory Montel) and Mathias’ daughter Camille Valentini (Fanny Sidney) who’s getting a hang on becoming an agent. Arlette Azémar (Liliane Rovère) continues to surprise me, and hunky-boss-from-hell Hicham (Assaad Bouab) is perhaps not as bad as we think. This season, there’s also more drama involving the agents’ assistants Hervé (Nicolas Maury) and Noémie (Laure Calamy) who are just as neurotic as their bosses.

The assistants’ lives are just as complex as their bosses!

All of this drama, humor and bizarre scenarios are fun escapist stuff. At times it made me think how fun would it be to be agents to the stars, but they practically have no personal life as they’re on call 24/7 and these stars can be such babies! The setting is mostly in Paris which means the setting and fashion alone is fun to watch. This is such an addictive show that I hope there’ll be season 4 and more in the future!


Have you seen either one of these shows? I’d love to hear what you think!

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