Review: ‘House of Gucci’ paints disappointing picture

The movie camera loves Lady Gaga.

Every movement she makes, each gesture she creates, looks tailored for the lens as she follows her instinct to be noticed on screen.

But reaching from the screen, and creating an authentic performance, aren’t the same thing. Despite a valiant effort, the music icon struggles in “House of Gucci” with how to use her magical presence to reveal layers of ambition.

In the film’s opening moments, Gaga shines as Patrizia, a money hungry woman who eyes the potential in getting to know Maurizio Gucci, a reluctant member of a legendary brand, business and family. As the young couple navigates the resistance of a patriarch who wants his son “to do better,” Gaga charms the camera and the father with her engaging personality. Soon, Maurizio’s uncle welcomes the woman into his confidence while a cousin, Paolo, wonders what all the fuss is about. He soon learns as Patrizia quickly transitions from newcomer with charm to business mogul with unlimited ambition. And no one is prepared for the storm she creates.

No actor – especially one with limited screen experience – can struggle to overcome a weak script and the narrative for “House of Gucci" based on Sarah Gay Forden’s book. It never finds its rhythm. The first act plays like a romantic comedy with lovers from different worlds discovering what they do and do not have in common. The second act transitions to the story of the family business without offering much background explanation of what makes the family or the business intriguing. And the disastrous third act seems to arrive from a different movie as Patrizia looks for every possible way to articulate her anger.

In such a mess of a screenplay, Gaga has little chance to make us believe Patrizia’s journey. Without a character to play, and challenged to sustain her Italian accent, the actor relies on her charisma and personality to keep us engaged. But, to make the story work, we need to see more — how Patrizia hides as much as she shares, what ignites her hostilities, what warms her heart. But Gaga, always a performer willing to reveal, finds herself at odds exploring the character’s layered realities. The result is a confused performance that never finds its center and, by the protracted conclusion, it’s clear the actor has no idea what the character is about.

For a movie about high-end fashion and style, “House of Gucci” doesn’t try to help us understand the intricacies of the business or the appeal of the brand. Unlike the magical “Phantom Thread” that welcomed us into the dynamics of fashion, this film seems to assume that we know what Gucci is all about. And movies that make such assumptions rarely work on screen.

Still, the camera loves Lady Gaga, and she will emerge in another role that works. Few performers have such power to make us want to see more. But this time, sadly, there isn’t much to discover.

More Information

Film Summary: "House of Gucci"

Content: Medium. How an ambitious woman navigates layers of family and business offers a synthetic look inside an iconic brand.
Entertainment: Medium. Despite the commanding presence of Lady Gaga, the movie falls flat in offering any insight into what creates family tragedy
Message: Medium. As meaningful as the story could be, we want to know more about the lady so invested in her ambition.
Relevance: Medium. Any opportunity to see a magical presence on screen can be worthwhile, but this one falls short.
Opportunity for Dialogue: Medium. Anyone watching this disappointing film may want to learn more about why this lady chooses this approach to addressing her issues.

“House of Gucci” is rated R for “sexual content, brief nudity and violence.” The film runs 2 hours, 37 minutes, and is in theaters.