Review – Going Gaga For Glamour (“House of Gucci”)

Based on the 2001 book, The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden, just imagine The Godfather, but with incredible fashion and still starring Al Pacino in it! Dressing up in your finest is not required when seeing this movie, but it helps.

The saying goes, “Behind every successful man is a woman”, and in this case, it’s Italian bombshell and golddigger, Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga, née Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta). It’s 1978 in Milan, Italy, and this very hot woman has her eyes set on the rich & famous, but shy & naive Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver with a floating accent) after they meet-cute at a swinging disco party. His father, Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons, looking like an old John Waters), denounces their dating and disowns Maurizio, but gives in after they get married and have a baby. Patrizia, not one to sit on her laurels, attaches herself to the Gucci family via Maurizio’s outgoing and jovial uncle, Aldo (Al Pacino). This is good because Aldo can’t stand his worthless son, Paolo (an unrecognizable Jared Leto) who comes up with crazy fashion designs.

As the years pass, Patrizia acts as a Svengali to Maurizio, manipulating him to move them up the ladder of success by any means possible, even back-stabbing, throwing others under the bus, conniving, and good old fashioned betrayal. Paolo’s fantastic new line of Gucci clothing is hit with a lawsuit, businesses are bought and sold with no regard to anyone’s feelings, and Patrizia is relying more and more on TV psychic, Giuseppina Auriemma (Salma Hayek) for advice. Pretty soon, the tables are turned and it’s time for Maurizio to grow a backbone and play the game against his control-freak wife. Ah, but Maurizio forgot the age-old proverb: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and Patrizia wants her revenge after Maurizio takes over the business and gets a new lover (Camille Cottin).

At a lengthy and taxing 160 minutes, the main problem is with the two screenwriters, and it’s easy to see why. Becky Johnston (Under the Cherry Moon, Seven Years in Tibet) has only written a few scripts and all of them have been bad, and then there’s Roberto Bentivegna whose never written a screenplay before. Needless to say, these two adapted the book into a mish-mash of soap opera buffoonery, high fashion stakes, and Godfather-level chicanery. But none of it quite lives up to what really happened, since this is a “based on true events” bio-pic, and many of the scenes are totally unnecessary or are thrown in out-of-context. Had this been given to some better writers, it could have soared. That being said, there are some redeeming qualities.

Veteran director Ridley Scott spins this otherwise iffy script into a nice playbook of the Gucci empire and their All The Money In The World decadence. It’s supported by the impeccable casting and gorgeous Italian countryside by cinematographer Dariusz Wolski. After seeing her remarkable work in 2018’s A Star Is Born, Lady Gaga returns to the screen and she’s even better than before! She carries the movie with those impressive, wanting almond eyes as she layers her performance beautifully, going from an innocent, flirtatious young woman to a hardened, knives-out, power-hungry wife, with Adam Driver being very much her acting equal.

Driver envelopes his role, starting out as the shy dupe and later emerging as the savvy, powerful sales executive with ease. Hayek is great in her small role and Pacino is having a good ‘ol time doing what he does best: chewing the scenery and going over the top. However, winning the Jim Carrey/Johnny Depp Award For Character Disguise goes to Jared Leto for his portrayal of the loopy Paolo. Buried under tons of Fredo Corleone-looking make-up, he’s simply awesome and worthy of an Oscar for that sheer chameleon transformation.  

**Now showing only in theaters

So Fine (1981)

Fashion? Sex? Lies? Murder? Comedy?? Yes, it’s all here in this obscure little sex farce that came out in 1981, written & directed by Andrew Bergman, famous for his comedies Oh God! You Devil, The In-laws, The Freshman, and Honeymoon in Vegas amongst others.

Ryan O’Neal (back when his comedy chops were at their zenith) plays hapless English college professor Bobby Fine who learns that he’s eligible for a tenure position at his university. Gee, what could possibly screw this important opportunity up? Meanwhile, back in the Big Apple, Bobby’s dad, Jack Fine (Jack Warden) is in big trouble. Y’see, Jack is the owner of Fine Fashions, a failing maker & seller of women’s dresses that is heavily in debt ($1.5 million) to hulking 7’2 businessman, nightclub owner, and gangster, Mr. Eddie (Richard Kiel, sporting a slick Gordon Gecko haircut). This man-giant wants his money and demands that Jack bring in his son to help.

Naturally, Bobby knows nothing of the biz, but instantly falls in lust with Mr. Eddie’s gorgeous, sex-starved Italian wife, Lira (Mariangela Melato). Right under Eddie’s nose (literally) they have a brief affair and, in the process of leaving her house in a hurry without his own clothes, Bobby is forced to wear Lira’s angora sweater and her skin-tight jeans. He rips the pants, exposing his naked rear end, causing an instant sensation in his father’s clothing office. Now everyone wants these spectacular jeans with the exposed butt-cheeks, selling millions overnight and pulling their business out of the red. However, Lira still has the hots for Bobby, despite the fact he’s going back to college to teach.

In a wacky and completely silly third act, straight out of a Marx Brothers or Mel Brooks movie, Eddie discovers Lira’s infidelity and decides to kill both Lira and Bobby in a fit of rage. This takes us to upstate New York’s Chippenango State College and the opera, Othello (of course!!), where Bobby and Lira meet up unexpectedly. As they’re watching the opera, Mr. Eddie is on his way, wreaking havoc in his travels trying to find the college. Things get wildly complicated and really screwball when Lira takes over on stage for the ailing actress singing for Desdemona and Eddie pops up as Othello. . . and he can sing opera?? WTH?!

Bergman wrote a very funny script here, but it was hampered by the two battling plotlines. There was the fashion debacle with the gangster pushing against the one with Bobby having a dangerous affair with a criminal’s wife. The two clashed against each other, not giving each enough room to breathe. Both stories were funny in their own right, but together they just got muddied. What’s very meta is, after the movie came out, those fake see-through jeans were a surprise hit, prompting several garment makers to consider making them for real! FYI: they never did. Ryan O’Neal pretty much reprises his deadpan, hang-dog Dr. Howard Bannister character from 1977’s What’s Up Doc? Jack Warden does his usual schtick of being cantankerous and Fred Gwynne has a nice turn as the college dean.

The real gem is Italian film star Mariangela Melato, who only did a few films here (Swept Away, Flash Gordon). With her broken English and empowering attitude, she was both sexy and comedic. Watch for Angela Pietropinto as her Italian maid, Sylvia, who is hilarious every time she shows up. Then you have Richard Kiel, fresh off his stint reprising his role as Jaws in 007’s Moonraker. He spends most of the movie bashing, lifting, and destroying things (or people) and speaks in some kind of staccato English. Well, at least he gets to have fun here, dressed to the 9’s, dancing in his club, and singing opera on stage! In other words, he looks like he’s having loads of fun! Check this out for some silly 80’s mindless frivolity.

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