House of Gucci

House of Gucci ★★★★½

A prestige picture about a family whose name may be the only prestigious thing that it has carried into history, Ridley Scott's "House of Gucci" is a historical melodrama that looms as large as the director's historical epics. Tracking the family Gucci into oblivion, Scott's drama offers an engrossing lead performance, outsized characterizations, pointed commentary, and intriguing questions.

Beginning in the late 1970s, "House of Gucci" rumbles to life with the fateful meet-cute of one Maurizio Gucci, a law student with a pedigree, and Patrizia Reggiani, a beguiling young charmer. From there, the story follows the two through the next decade and a half as arcs seemingly borrowed from Greek tragedy motivate the film's plot.

In the script's examination of its titular family, the film observes the rot and corruption engendered by success and power and the toll all of it takes on the varying archetypes scuffling on its real-life chess board. The narrative sees entities in need of mothering and mothers whose broken hearts lead to acts of mythic violence. These are statements drawn from the loud, sometimes silly theater of life and played as controlled opera.

Scott frames the tale with an eye that is straightforward, allowing his cast and bursts of music to supply the film's style. Compositions are deep and layered, and the actors, primarily the screen-owning Lady Gaga, and their tragi-comic characters give those compositions their energy.

Perhaps a dramatic satire of wealth and opulence, perhaps a dissection of audience expectation, "House of Gucci" is a magnetic combination of internal narrative machinery and external drama. Expertly built and charismatically crafted, it is a film that presents itself with a knowing wink and an appealing shot of cinematic electricity.

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