Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” has a promising premise, which makes how unexciting it is all the more infuriating. Inspired by a true story, it follows Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”), who marries into the Gucci family. Over the course of the film, the audience watches as the family business and Patrizia’s marriage fall apart. The plot is full of betrayal, murder, a fashion designer’s crushed dreams and a fortune-teller who comes out of nowhere to offer questionable advice. Yet, despite the impressive pitch, when Paolo Gucci (Jared Leto, “Suicide Squad”) asked Patrizia, “Am I boring you?” I wanted to shout “Yes!” across the theater.
The film spans two decades, and it feels like it. This is not due to the inclusion of unnecessary information or because individual scenes dragged on, but rather because the pacing never varies. Many scenes feel like they could be turning points in the film’s trajectory when the story could pick up its pace and manage to keep the viewer engaged. But this never happens. The film leaps from one disconnected scene to another at the same rate with the same level of tension, occasionally leaping forward in time to something no more meaningful — two hours and 40 minutes on the precipice of excitement without ever achieving it.
This affects all areas of a film that could have otherwise been good. When Patrizia tells new husband Maurizio (Adam Driver, “Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker”) that she is pregnant and convinces him to visit his parents with her, it feels like the film is finally about to start. Minutes later — without any continuation of this plotline — a year has elapsed and she has already given birth. When the story jumps forward, it doesn’t follow up on suspense planted in the previous scene, but instead places the audience in an equally lukewarm tension, wondering when the scattering of suspense will lead to anything.
In other places, the film is almost humorous. Scenes between fortune teller Pina (Salma Hayek, “Eternals”) and Patrizia are entertaining and don’t feel lethargic, but the film drains them of any joy they could have offered. Elsewhere, moments are humorous only if the viewer makes an intentional effort to think of them that way. Most of these involve Paolo, the token comic relief. When Paolo says that he was “in bed with a pound of gelato cioccolato and the very dark thoughts” in response to his career as a designer crumbling, one feels not compelled to laugh, but obligated to do so in the hope of enjoying the film.
If Paolo is the comic relief, everyone else is the mysterious, emotionless, hard-to-understand character, and no one is the character you root for. Even the main characters fail to show emotion beside various brands of aloofness and occasional anger. Often, they don’t appear to feel any way at all, at least in no way that is discernible to the viewer. This makes sympathy an ordeal and empathy impossible. Even if the plot had picked up its pace, it still would have been hard to care because the characters’ relationships to each other don’t make sense. When Maurizio says he wants to marry Patrizia, it is jarring since their interactions to that point have been cold and awkward (and not in a cute way).
To their credit, the creators’ care for the film is more apparent than the characters’ care for each other (or the audience’s care for any part of it). The film does not feel thrown together. At times, its value feels right below the surface, or, failing that, far below the surface but nevertheless existent. The sets themselves frequently resemble the advertisements now common to Gucci, rich with that signature deep, muted green and pastel pink. At other times, the sets appear out of a generic perfume ad: too polished and plain, but they are generally interesting.
Regardless, any value the film may have is buried by the monotonous pace or hidden behind the stoney characters. Like the brand itself, “Gucci” feels almost valuable at times, but when looked at, its worth is never quite clear.
Daily Arts Writer Erin Evans can be reached at email@example.com.