Are Critics Gaga over Lady Gaga & 'House of Gucci?'

Friday November 26, 2021
Originally published on November 23, 2021

The embargo over "House of Gucci" reviews lifted just days before the film hits theaters on Wednesday. But how are critics responding to Ridley Scott's account of the family's inner turmoil (including murder) behind the iconic fashion brand?

Currently, the film holds a 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, which does certify the film as "Fresh" in their rankings. Over at Metacritic, the other major critic aggregating website, it rates a bit lower at 60%.

Here is a sample of the reviews:

In a positive review in Variety, Owen Gleiberman writes:

"House of Gucci" has a transfixing backstabbing allure. It may be a drama about a crazy rich Euro-chic Old World fashion dynasty, with a cast dominated by American actors scheming and emoting in gaudy Italian accents, but that doesn't mean it's some operatic piece of high camp... 'House of Gucci' is an icepick docudrama that has a great deal of fun with its grand roster of ambitious scoundrels, but it's never less than a straight-faced and nimbly accomplished movie... Directed by Ridley Scott, in what is easily his finest work since 'Gladiator,' the film is absorbing because it takes the world it shows us on its own coldly flamboyant terms."

In the British newspaper The Telegraph, Robbie Collin raves about Lady Gaga but is less enthusiastic about the film. "In 'House of Gucci,' the 35-year-old singer turned actress heaves, flails, stews, broods, jiggles and billows with the very best of them, usually in (though sometimes out of) an impressive range of deafening outfits. In a film set in the world of Italian couture, here is a thrillingly unfashionable performance — harking back to Claudia Cardinale and Sophia Loren in its freeness, wit and sheer carnal chutzpah.... I only wish I could report that Ridley Scott's new film — the 83-year-old master's second this year, after October's 'The Last Duel' — managed to match its lead actress's pace for its entire two-and-a-half-hour duration. But while House of Gucci is never less than watchably raucous, it's also essentially a soap opera with airs, rambling along from episode to episode without ever settling into its stride."

David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter suggests that the biggest problem with 'House of Gucci' is that it shouldn't be a movie at all. "It pains me to say these words about anything, but House of Gucci is begging to be a Ryan Murphy series. At least then we might actually know whether its frequent lurches into acidic camp were intentional. Ridley Scott's film is a trashtacular watch that I wouldn't have missed for the world. But it fails to settle on a consistent tone — overlong and undisciplined as it careens between high drama and opera buffa."

Indiewire's David Ehrlich shows love for Lady Gaga and co-star Jared Leto, who plays the dim-witted Paolo Gucci. "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... Leto inhabits poor old Paolo as a black sheep in Technicolor, his sad clown performance worthy of three Michelin Stars even if it's as true to Italian culture as a can of Chef Boyardee." Of the film itself, he writes: "It may not resonate with the biblical weight of 'There Will Be Blood' or scald with the hedonistic swagger of 'The Wolf of Wall Street,' but Scott's film offers a shrewdly divided fable about the way things tend to get cheapened as they grow more lucrative."

In a four-star (out of five) review in the British newspaper The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw goes gaga over Gaga. "Ridley Scott's fantastically rackety, messy soap opera about the fall of the house of Gucci is rescued from pure silliness by Lady Gaga's glorious performance as Patrizia Reggiani... Every time Gaga comes on screen, you just can't help grinning at her sly elegance, mischief and performance-IQ, channelling Gina Lollobrigida or Claudia Cardinale in their early-50s gamine styles. He added his reservations: "House of Gucci — adapted by screenwriters Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna from the non-fiction bestseller by Sara Gay Forden — is enjoyable despite, or because of, Scott's touristy, pantomimey approach to Italy and Italian culture."

On the distaff side, Derek Smith in Slant gives the film two stars (out of four). "The story of Maurizio Gucci's (Adam Driver) rise and fall has all the ingredients of an epic soap opera, from the glitz and glamour to the infighting, betrayal, and power moves within one of the world's most illustrious fashion families... Pity, then, that director Ridley Scott's 'House of Gucci' rarely embraces melodramatic excess, as this tale of greed and revenge too often resembles a tasteful, straight-laced biopic rather than the tense, overheated crime drama that the material practically begs for... Only Jared Leto, smothered in layers of gaudy makeup, a ridiculous wig, and sporting an accent certain to raise eyebrows among members of the Italian American Anti-Defamation League, approximates the campy tone needed to inject some life into this 157-minute slog of a film."

At The Wrap, Alonso Duralde was also disappointed, comparing it to a dated television miniseries. "Despite the film's A-list trappings — Ridley Scott directs a cast of Oscar winners and nominees, including Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Jared Leto — "House of Gucci" most often resembles one of those soapy 1980s miniseries like 'Lace' or 'Scruples,' all about lust, greed and murder among the rich and famous."

At the New Yorker, in a largely negative review Richard Brody says the film was doomed from the start. "Start with the accents. Ridley Scott's new movie, 'House of Gucci,' is about one of Italy's most notable and notorious fashion families, but it is an English-language movie starring an extraordinary cast of American and British actors—Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Jared Leto, and Jack Huston—who speak in heavily Italian-accented English. This decision renders the movie ridiculous from the start, like a Monty Python parody of the fashion world."

He continues: "Scott focusses with narrow-minded obstinacy on the troubles at hand, and the movie that results feels like a true-crime TV miniseries sliced and diced to feature length. Jack Webb couldn't have done a more rigorous job of filtering for "just the facts" than Scott has done, at the expense of any societal and historical resonance that the drama packs and any psychological depth that the characters possess."