The only way to watch House Of Gucci is with an appreciation for Camp - “love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.” Fortunately, the audience at last night’s Toronto advanced screening of the long-anticipated film welcomed the unintentional cinematic vibe with open hearts and big, boisterous belly laughs.
The wacky delivery of the film makes it hard to believe that director Ridley Scott and screenwriters Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna intended to make a serious crime drama about the legendary Gucci family, but they did.
The true story of the Gucci family has all of the elements of a real drama. The Gucci designer brand was run by a male-dominated, back-stabbing family marked by legend, love, lust, and murder, making HBO’s Succession look like a family picnic.
Lady Gaga plays Patrizia Reggiani, the woman who married into the Gucci family and ultimately changed the course of the dynasty. House Of Gucci has been heavily promoted as a bonafide crime drama, with Gaga poised as a frontrunner in the Oscar race. Gaga’s outstanding acting (accent aside - to be discussed later) will likely earn her a nomination.
But something went awry with the overall story and production of the film leading to some slanderous reviews. Fortunately, the early reviews prepared the audience for a less-than-serious take on the film, and we came ready to enjoy it for all that it was and wasn’t.
Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons usually boost the credibility of dramatic films, so you would think that the two thespian giants portraying Aldo and Rodolfo Gucci would be Italian AF. They were, but not in an expected way. I have read House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed and these two real-life Gucci men were cutthroat, ruthless Italian businessmen. Pacino and Irons play the designer brand patriarchs with comedic overtones, making them affable, ageing Italian men. These portrayals are entertaining, but they do not lend the intended dramatic effect to the film. Instead, they set the stage for Italian caricatures in abundance.
Thank god early reviewers of the film warned audiences that the Italian accents would be problematic. I adore Lady Gaga, and it pains me to say it, but, umm, I don’t think that was Italian. Of course, Gaga is getting the most severe flack for the assassination of the Italian accent, even though I heard at least four different renderings of the accent from Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Adam Driver, and Jeremy Irons. Although no one quite nailed the accent, all actors 110% committed to maintaining their version of it throughout the film, and that is Camp! In the months and years to come, I am sure that comedians will make spoofs of House Of Gucci and the meandering accents.
One piece of dialogue reached peak Camp status before the movie was released — “Father, Son and House Of Gucci.” Lady Gaga reportedly improvised the iconic line that has been circulating through previews and social media. The audience was waiting for the moment and everyone whooped and clapped when Gaga’s character summoned the new Holy Trinity.
More ridiculous lines were sprinkled throughout, delivered mainly by Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci, the buffoon of a son of the eldest of the Gucci dynasty. Leto’s character was obviously meant to be comic relief in an otherwise heavy crime drama. Instead, the unnecessary bald cap, facial prosthetics, fat suit and lines like, “Does an elephant sheeeet in the jungle?” said in the most stereotypical Italian accent of all time were outlandish and perfectly in place amongst the rest of the garish tale.
The majority of the story takes place in the ‘80s and ‘90s, making it ripe for Camp! The costuming, Gucci and otherwise, was opulent as it should be. Rich people did rich things like drink wine by the seaside and Espresso at the bottom of a ski hill. People partied and had loud sex and drove fast cars. Blondie, The Eurythmics and George Michael popped us through the decades. Characters like the Gucci-reviving designer, Tom Ford, and Vogue Editor-In-Chief, Anna Wintour, even showed up to amp up the Camp! It was enough to make my 80s/90s heart explode!
My heart hasn’t felt that kind of ecstasy in a long time. As a die-hard Lady Gaga fan, I have been looking forward to seeing House Of Gucci for months. But, up until recent weeks, I was expecting the dramatic saga it was designed to be. Surpisingly, what I got instead, was Camp in its truest form.
“One must distinguish between naive and deliberate Camp. Pure Camp is always naive. Camp which knows itself to be Camp (‘camping’) is usually less satisfying.”
-Susan Sontag, Notes on ‘Camp’
No one intended House Of Gucci to be Camp, but that’s precisely why it is. It is entirely unnecessary, entertaining, self-indulgent, and I am 100% here for it!
House Of Gucci is in theatres on November 24, 2021. Get your Camp on and see it!
Extra special thanks to Mr. Will Wong for the advance screening passes. If you don’t follow him yet, what are you waiting for? He is THE source for everything entertainment in Toronto and beyond. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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