Out of all the modern pop divas, Lady Gaga has made the most seamless transition into acting. The artist formerly known as Stefani Germanotta boasts a Golden Globe for her performance in TV’s American Horror Story: Hotel; and an Oscar for A Star Is Born, albeit for Best Original Song. Three years on from that golden moment, she’s back on the big screen working with some of the most celebrated names in Hollywood. Can she hold her own?
The Ridley Scott-directed House of Gucci is based on the non-fiction book of the same name, chronicling a real-life incident in one of the world’s biggest fashion houses. Gaga stars as Patrizia Reggiani, a young woman from a working-class background who, by chance, meets Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at a party. Maurizio is a member of the iconic Gucci Family, but is something of a black sheep with no charisma or sense of style.
The pair fall in love, and Patrizia marries into the wealthy, power-mad world of Gucci and its many patriarchs. Charming her way into the centre of the multi-billion organisation, she turns family members against each other, and positions her husband to take over. However, when Maurizio begins to see her as dispensable, Patrizia begins a violent plot of revenge.
While his best work is legendary, Scott can also make an off-the-rack plot look tailor-made. He throws the audience into the chic world of Gucci, where even the hired help look a million dollars. He wisely sets the tone of a handsomely mounted soap opera, basically an episode of Dallas with a larger budget and Italian accents. When viewed through this lens, the wandering plot and ludicrous turns seem to add to the experience.
Lady Gaga certainly buys into that aesthetic, with big hair and bigger tantrums. She understands the assignment, making Patrizia a stylish, outrageous anti-hero who you want to see succeed as she seethes in her blood red ski suit. Where Maurizio compares her to Elizabeth Taylor, she purrs “I can assure you I’m way more fun”. It’s unlikely to earn her a second Oscar, and the Italian accent strays into Eastern Europe occasionally, but she is the most watchable member of the cast.
Driver is, as always, subtly effective, showing Maurizio’s progression from geek to mogul without overshadowing his co-star. He has the misfortune of being stuck in the duller half of the plot, as Patrizia’s scheming is a lot more fun than the inner workings of a fashion house. So, while Gaga gets to have fun plotting with a celebrity psychic (Salma Hayek), his talents are restricted to dry boardroom scenes.
Still, it could be worse. Every family has its oddballs, and in this cast, Jared Leto is a distraction. He plays Paolo Gucci, the idiot son of founder Aldo (Al Pacino), who causes his father no end of trouble. The Oscar winner dons ridiculous prosthetics and an awful accent – “You rip-a my heart-a out!” he exclaims at one point, with all the authenticity of a Super Mario Brother. Whereas Gaga leans into the melodrama of the piece, Leto looks like he’s in a comedy sketch. Pacino is exactly what you would expect, a bellowing counterpoint to his on-screen brother Jeremy Irons, who plays the grief-stricken actor Rodolfo Gucci with a lot of class.
House of Gucci is about thirty minutes too long, and should have focused on the conspiracy rather than the catwalk. Nevertheless, this true crime adaptation takes advantage of the innate campness of its star, and becomes trashily enjoyable. House of Gucci is in cinemas from 26th November