Released: 1st January
Seen: 2nd January
Camp is not an easy thing to properly explain. I could assign you the legendary Notes On Camp essay by Susan Sontag and that might get it across, or we could go with the description that John Waters gives in his episode of The Simpsons “The tragically ludicrous, the ludicrously tragic”. It’s not easy to call out what is and isn’t camp, though there is no real midground on camp. Either something is camp or it’s not (there is no such thing as subtle camp, if someone tells you otherwise then beat them with a tent pole) and it’s sometimes it’s hard to call… not in this case though, House of Gucci is so fucking camp that it’s accepting kids for a summer program right now.
House of Gucci tells the story of the marriage between Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver). Their relationship starts very simple, loving, almost quaint. Of course, the problem is that Maurizio is the heir to the Gucci brand and the patriarch of the family, Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons) doesn’t like Patrizia at first. So, Patrizia (and Maurizio, under duress) start to work on being the head of the Gucci family and overtake the business from Rodolfo, his co-owner Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino) and Aldo’s idiot son Paolo Gucci (Jared Leto). Their rise to the top is filled with tax fraud, high fashion, espresso and murder but they’ll make it eventually, so help me Gucci.
If you recall 2019 (AKA the before times), the Met Gala held its annual function and the theme of the event was that previously mentioned essay, Notes on Camp by Susan Sontag. House of Gucci is what would happen if you took the energy of the 2019 Met Gala and made it into a film. Lady Gaga is the obvious star of the show who deserves endless praise for showing everyone else how it’s done (seriously, this woman is going to win a Best Actress Oscar someday and god I hope it’s for this), Jared Leto understood the assignment completely and committed with 150% of his being, people like Pacino or Irons are the olds who are still camp just not on the way you expected and Driver is every man who turned up in a regular suit.. And much like the 2019 Met Gala, House of Gucci went on too long but also not long enough.
House of Gucci rockets along its story without bothering with more details than is absolutely essential (it even calls out the idea of details being superfluous in one of the few meta moments) which means a lot of stuff is less shown and more implied, like the forging of a document or the existence of a child. This stuff could’ve added rich detail to House of Gucci that would’ve suited a film about a brand as luxurious as Gucci but nope, it’s bullet points… but a lot of bullet points, enough to make a 2 and a half-hour film that probably didn’t need a good chunk of the middle stuff… but that’s part of the campy aesthetic, too much and not enough at the same time.
House of Gucci just oozes wealth, but in the tackiest way you could imagine. Gaga’s outfits change almost every shot, she’s either completely changed every item of clothing or she’s restyling things just enough that it’s noticeable. Everyone drinks espresso at all times and if they aren’t, you can see them thinking about their next cup of espresso. The fashion is high end but it’s displayed in just the worst ways, AKA with Jared Leto running about in whatever accent he decided to do (No, I don’t know if everyone is doing a good Italian accent… I don’t care, I was laughing too fucking hard).
Hell, I need a full paragraph just to thank Jared Leto for making the decision to do whatever the hell I just sat through because it was a delight. From his entrance where I would swear on my family’s lives that he yelled “PASTA PASTA PASTA” to the final “Boof”, his performance is so stupid and over the top that it has to be intentional and it’s almost pure art… ok it’s more pure artifice than anything, but you can’t spell artifice without art so it counts! This man is an Oscar winning actor and he’s delivering a performance that is either absolute genius or a complete failure on every level, I can’t decide which one.
Now obviously there are problems with House of Gucci. The editing, as mentioned before, is quite spectacularly bad. Insert shots that are clearly needed to give the audience information are missing (which in one hilarious moment just makes Adam Driver look really goddamn stupid. He’s meant to notice Gaga staring at him but they forget to cut to show us what he’s looking at so it’s like he just forgot which direction he had to look in) and some transitions are just… Again, either genius or failure depends on if they meant for this to be serious. I’m assuming they didn’t because anyone trying to make a serious film doesn’t let Jared Leto do what he did (or give Jeremy Irons a John Waters moustache!)
The story itself, at least according to people who were actually there at the time, isn’t accurate but really… I don’t care. If I want accuracy I’ll read an investigative piece, I’m watching a Lady Gaga and Jared Leto film that features Al Pacino… I’m not expecting a documentary over here. I expected a campy mess with some great fashion and that’s what I got, I don’t see how you go into this expecting anything more than that.
What might’ve made House of Gucci better is if this was a TV series, hell it often feels like someone shot a season of American Crime Story and this is the movie they cobbled together from the eight episode run. You can see where some expansion would actually elevate things to be a more prestigious level of camp. Granted, it’d still be obscenely goddamn camp but there’d be more of it, and I would like that.
House of Gucci is precisely what it needed to be, a high camp fashion-filled story of intrigue, sex and murder. Is it tacky? Yeah. It is tasteless? Sure. Does it play with a lot of stereotypes? I’ll answer that after my next espresso… but is House of Gucci one of the most gloriously fun films I’ve seen in a while? Oh my god yes. I just don’t know if this was intentional or if Ridley Scott is losing his marbles in just the right way to appeal to me but either way, I will take what I can get.