House of Gucci

House of Gucci ★★★½

Patrizia Reggiani — or at least the Mad Magazine caricature of her that Lady Gaga carves from the tabloids with Michelangelo-like artistry and precision — is one of modern cinema’s most voracious money monsters. And while the actress who so vividly embodies her in Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” might insist that Reggiani married the reluctant heir to Milan’s greatest fashion empire for love and not the greed that she later grew into, everything we see on screen suggests that some Machiavellian bloodsuckers are just born that way (perhaps a pinch of self-delusion is necessary for Gaga’s bone-deep commitment to the bit).

The Patrizia at the heart of this frothy tragicomic fable is Jordan Belfort, Daniel Plainview, and No-Face from “Spirited Away” all dolled up like Elizabeth Taylor and rolled into a checkered $5,000 pantsuit that looks like the smell of leather. You can almost see the cash registers go “ka-ching!” in her eyeballs when Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) introduces himself to her at a party one fateful night in the 1970s, as that famous last name hits Patrizia like a whiff of cartoon cheese and sparks a chemical reaction that will eventually ruin them both.

It’s a moment of pure exaggeration shot with the poker-faced reserve of a director whose steeliness has bent any number of genres to his will over the years, and it sets the stage for a gaudy corporate satire that’s dressed in the seriousness of a crime epic. Or is it the other way around? Some movie-goers may be disappointed to find that Scott’s film isn’t quite the unapologetic romp that its trailers promised; that it’s less fun than it is fascinating, despite the arena-sized bigness of Lady Gaga’s lead performance and Jared Leto’s very welcome decision to play Maurizio’s failson cousin like a commedia dell’arte cross between Fredo Corleone and Waluigi (no last name given).

But this is hardly a case of a movie that can’t decide on its tone. On the contrary, “House of Gucci” is best enjoyed as a movie about the blood-feud over its tone. Locked in a heated conversation with its own campiness from the moment it starts, “House of Gucci” leverages that underlying conflict into an operatic portrait of the tension between wealth and value.

~this review continues on IndieWire~