Movie review

“House of Gucci” is one of those movies that audiences will laugh at; not because it’s bad (it isn’t), not because it’s supposed to be funny (it isn’t, really, though I’m not sure anyone told Jared Leto that), but because most of its characters seem to function on a purely operatic level — it’s full of performances that the screen can barely hold. Director Ridley Scott slyly knows this, because everything about this movie is enormous: the opera music that punctuates many of the scenes, the ‘80s jewelry, the array of Italian accents, the running time. But all that bigness is part of the fun; this real-life soap opera, with Lady Gaga giving a mesmerizing performance at its center, is enjoyably nutty, and goes down wonderfully with popcorn.

Adam Driver and Lady Gaga in Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci.”  (Fabio Lovino)

Like all the best nonsense, “House of Gucci” is based on a true story, though the most interesting part of it doesn’t happen until the final scenes. It follows the marriage of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) and Patrizia Reggiani (Gaga, showing that her “A Star Is Born” Oscar nomination was no fluke), who meet at a Milan party in the ‘70s and fall in love. They have little in common, but maybe are meant for each other: He’s a son of the Gucci fashion-house family who’s reluctant to step up in the firm he was born to; she’s a secretary with big ambitions who’s happy to give him a push. Soon, Patrizia connects with Maurizio’s uncle Aldo (Al Pacino, singing all his lines as if he’s really in an opera) and persuades her husband to join the firm — to the surprise of Maurizio’s distant father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) and the dismay of his cousin Paolo (Leto, made up to look like Uncle Leo on “Seinfeld”), who has misplaced dreams of being a designer for the company.

Lady Gaga in “House of Gucci.” (Courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

Need I tell you that things begin to go awry in Maurizio and Patrizia’s marriage, and a lot of Italian-accented screaming takes place, in a series of beautifully appointed rooms? Along the way, you start to realize that you’ve been waiting all your life for a scene in which Pacino and Irons side-eye each other on a gorgeous palazzo, or one in which Leto does something rather rude to a Gucci scarf while wearing, I believe, a pink corduroy suit. That’s the kind of movie this is, full of lines like: “There is no love greater on earth than that of a father for his son. (Pause) With a few exceptions.” And yes, Pacino sells that line like he’s going out of business, which I hope he isn’t.

“House of Gucci” is no masterpiece, but it’s often crazy good fun.

“House of Gucci” ★★★ (out of four)

With Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Al Pacino. Directed by Ridley Scott, from a screenplay by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna. 158 minutes. Rated R for language, some sexual content, and brief nudity and violence. Opens in multiple theaters Nov. 23.

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