Starring: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Irons, and Jack Huston.
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Where I Watched It: Apple VOD
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
The Plot: Love at first sight. When a man (Driver) meets a woman (Gaga) and falls in love with her, you would think that this story would be simple. Except the man is part of the Gucci family, and their fashion house is legend. Over the course of their relationship, decadence and betrayal break the relationship, eventually leading to murder. It’s based on a true story, so that’s not a spoiler.
What Works: In what is admittedly a mixed bag,I really thought the exchange of “I married a monster.” “No, you married a Gucci.” Really just hit the nail on the head. There are a few really exceptionally written moments in the film, which is why I suppose Ridley Scott had such a touch time trimming this film down.
But the real star here of course is Lady Gaga, who is just radiant in a film featuring American’s pretending to be Italian, she soars (with Al Pacino) to the top of the bunch. She’s given such a range in this film, I am actually quite surprised she didn’t end up with a nomination this year. A Star Is Born was more in line with who she is, and this she really proved her worth as an actress. She’s tough, powerful, intelligent, savvy, emotional, and deeply troubled.
But, I would be remiss to not also compliment Al Pacino, who in his entire career has only really ever given one bad performance. And we all know what that was. Jack and Jill. To this day, I just assume Adam Sandler blackmailed him. But Pacino is terrific here to the point I wonder why anyone bothered to talk about Jared Leto in the first place. Have we just given up on lauding Pacino? Meryl Streep has like 18 nominations, why can’t we just keep nominating Al Pacino?
As the elder of the Gucci family, Pacino watches the next generation squander the exclusivity of his brand, the quality, and everything that made his name synonymous with excellence. That scene, where he finds out what Paulo has done, is a great scene. It’s great for one actor, and that’s our man Pacino.
For the most part, Ridley Scott directed a really great film here, it just needed to be about 15-20 minutes shorter. He assumes we need tons of exposition and backstory, and an eternal amount of character building, but really the meat of the story is in the back half. The first half drags, but the second half has a much more vibrant electric current running through it. The cast also has much meatier material in the back half.
Not a perfect film, but there’s some greatness here.
What I love about the film is that it’s not fully just about this love story, or what compelled one to murder, but also the eventual fall of the Gucci family, and how these events led to there being no actual members of the family currently involved in the brand. Imagine if someone bought your name and started marketing products around it, and you had no say whatsoever. Not only did they lose control of their fashion house, but essentially their name was owned by another entity. Exploring that more was actually more interesting at times than the dynamics between Driver and Gaga.
What Doesn’t Work: Honestly, I literally just can’t with Jared Leto. I won’t comment on what I’ve heard about his makeup, but that accent feels like it fell out of a bad video game. His accent is so affected, it’s so inconsistent with everyone else in the film. This is probably more of a problem because there are very few Italian actors in roles of substantial necessity that when Scott chooses not just to cast Leto, but allows that accent to move forward, it’s mind boggling. I’m not an expert on Italian accents, but his accent stands out so much from literally every single person ever on camera. There’s no way that accent is what it should be.
I’m a fan of Jared Leto, and I was so happy to see him get all the love for Dallas Buyers Club back in the day, but when he got attention for The Little Things, I thought that wasn’t his best, and the fact he was ever nominated for any positive award for this film really makes me question just how much voters love Leto. Calm down. When you do these kind of shenanigans, you rob a more worthy actor, even one from the same film (Al Pacino). He never should have been in the conversation, he actually is terrible. It’s his worst performance… ever? I didn’t mind his bizarre Joker in Suicide Squad nearly as much as what he’s doing here.
Now that we’ve gotten that elephant out of the room, and speaking of things that are too big, this film is too long. It tries to be two things, well, three I suppose. It’s really a love story, but it’s also a historical look at the fall of the Gucci family as a whole, casting a wide net. This causes the film to feel bloated, and spends far too much time in the first hour or so of the film just world and character building. I could cut fifteen minutes from the first half of this film, make a tighter more focused work, and I think (except for Leto) this film would have been week received.
The Last Duel was long, but for a reason. you needed to see the three stories compared against each other, in order for the film to work. Here, Scott just believes you need to see Driver and Gaga fall in love. And for what it’s worth, I thought they had very thin chemistry. I didn’t love Driver in this film, and I know part of that is character choice, but he was far more effective in The Last Duel this year. Here, even when he’s supposed to be charming and boyishly in love, he still seems to be missing something. Gaga is all in, but Driver seems more focused on where his character eventually lands, that I never really liked Mauricio in the first place. And, because of Scott’s storytelling, when the murder occurs, I didn’t care, and I still felt like Gaga somehow got the raw end of this deal. Is that how I’m supposed to feel? Sympathy for the murderer and not the victim?
Like I said, it’s a mixed bag. Some of it works really well, and some of it doesn’t..
The Blind Perspective: I’m not one to come on here and bash narrators that much, but as I start to hear more and more, and feel their voices matched to certain projects, I wouldn’t have chosen this narrator for this project. He’s really quiet, and almost speaks in a hushed tone. i could see him narrating something very focused on mood, and the quiet, perhaps like Tree Of Life, or even this years Power Of The Dog. But I needed someone who knew they were reading a murder historical drama, and this voice just didn’t match the project. Really underwhelming, and somewhat sleepy.
Final Thoughts: When trying to weigh the good vs the bad, Gaga was great, Leto was awful. The first half is slow, the second half is great. So it really is a 50/50 split…almost. Because, this film only has one truly terrible performance. When you put how I felt underwhelmed by Driver’s performance at times, versus how terrific and under appreciated Al Pacino is in this film, Pacino gives this film a slight edge. I would slightly recommend this, if not just to enjoy all the aspects of acting, whether it be fantastic, or laughably bad.
Final Grade: C+