It’s probably the moment when Lady Gaga and Salma Hayek are having a mud-bath together and talking about casting spells that you realise House Of Gucci never had any designs on normality. Gaga is Patrizia Reggiani, the wronged woman who has turned the fashion world on its head. Hayek is Pina Auriemma, a clairvoyant who somehow becomes embroiled with it all after Patrizia phones in to her call-in television show. Just because. It’s a bizarre sub-strand of a film away with the fairies from the start.
It’s based on Sara Gay Forden’s 2001 book The House Of Gucci: A Sensational Story Of Murder, Madness, Glamour, And Greed, which is exactly what Ridley Scott’s adaptation is. And it is not interested in subtlety. Everything that happens is out-sized, and pretty much every performance is huge: other than Jack Huston who, almost jarringly naturalistic as businessman Domenico De Sole, didn’t get the memo, and Adam Driver, whose Maurizio is for the most part unassuming, the acting here is, well, loud. Gaga, never not compelling, consistently chews the scenery like a fabulous piranha. Al Pacino, handing out pomp like there’s no tomorrow as company chairman Aldo Gucci, is like an ageing Scarface, while Jared Leto… well. Where to begin with Jared Leto?
In House Of Gucci, Jared Leto looks like he’s wandered over from Gotham City. In fact he looks a little like Batman Returns’ Oswald Cobblepot, and his performance isn’t entirely dissimilar. Ditching his own immortal beauty for prosthetics that present him as bald, portly designer Paolo Gucci, he sings every line. No potential intonation is left unturned as he makes love to vowels, goes to town with consonants. It's possible that no actor has ever had as much fun with a role as he does here. Is he great, or just ridiculous? The answer, of course, is yes. Both. You’d happily pay to see him do a one-man show on Broadway with this shtick. Whatever the hell it is.
Everything that happens is out-sized, and pretty much every performance is huge.
And that sums up the film itself. The whole thing wants to be Sharon Stone’s character in Casino, and it is, and it isn’t. Despite the story’s operatic sweep, despite its undeniably Shakespearean entanglements, it feels oddly undramatic, the filmmaking itself quite detached. And certainly, despite all the catastrophe, you won’t be shedding tears over anybody, but maybe that’s the point? It’s a case-study of a business gone amok, and while you don’t truly get to know any of these people as actual human beings, you probably wouldn’t want to.
But that’s by the by when there’s so much madness to behold. There are lines here for the ages (very much relished by those delivering them). “Never confuse shit with chocolate.” Or how about, “A dinosaur posing as a butthole.” Perhaps best of all: “It’s a memory wrapped in Lycra.” You have to hand it to Ridley Scott, still, at 83, making utterly unique films that, for whatever reason, demand your attention. And Jared Leto will haunt your dreams.