House of Gucci

If the person who assembled the trailer above, was responsible for editing the movie, this would be a more positive evaluation. The trailer emphasizes the key ideas in the film, but does so more efficiently than the actual film does. So the trailer is more fun to watch and it moves with a sense of purpose, building to a withheld climax. The film, tells the story more completely, but it lingers over material that is not essential to the plot and the dynamics of the characters are a bit inconsistent. Director Ridley Scott seems to be aiming for an epic, when what he has is a melodrama with some goofy and off-putting characters.


The star of the show is Lady Gaga, portraying Patrizia Reggiani, a young woman who meets Maurizio Gucci, heir to a portion of the family business, and subsequently marries and manipulates him to become the head of the company, at the expense of other members of his family. She is not quite Lady Macbeth, but her ambitions are what fuels the narrative in the film, and her abilities to push in the right direction using her romantic relationship with Maurizio are the means by which she accomplishes her goal. Lady Gaga has established some creds as an actress and she acquits herself well in a role that she is properly cast in. She is youthful, sexy in a non conventional way and ambitious as hell, just as the character in the film she plays. Criticism of the accent is beside the point, the film is not looking for authenticity, the verisimilitude is provided by her smirk, eyes, and body. The dialogue occasionally contributes but the Italian Accented English is simply typical of films of this ilk. 


The cast of the film is impressive. Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons have a great scene together and the two aging lions play it more subtly than you might think. Irons is Rodolfo Gucci, father of Maurizio, and brother of Pacino’s Aldo Gucci. Rodolfo Gucci is ill and aging in the film and Irons looks like he is going through the process himself, I hope it is mostly acting and makeup that accounts for his condition in the movie. His best scene is with Jared Leto, who plays his nephew Paolo Gucci. Both father and Uncle have distain for Paolo, for reasons that are comically depicted here. The verbal takedown of Paolo by Rodolfo is the most fun scene in the movie, and oddly it generates some sympathy for the craven Paolo who is the butt end of nearly every comic moment on the film. Leto is flamboyant in the part and unrecognizable in the make up and costuming he has been given. Obviously he has been portrayed this way as a counterpoint to the taciturn Maurizio, who is brought to life by current hot actor of the moment Adam Driver. The son of Aldo Gucci, Driver plays his character almost as somnambulant in the early part of the film, and he only exhibits occasional moments of  personality when he is with Patrizia. The character is a key element in the events that takes place but Driver is so passive in the first two thirds of the movie that when his character eventually tries to switch off his wife, it comes as something of a head turner, how did he become that character all of a sudden?

Similar turns in the characters are found in other places in the script as well. Aldo goes from doting to controlling on Maurizio, Paolo goes from sniveling to conniving to repentant, and not with much explanation. Gaga’s character has the clearest path that explains the turn she makes, although to get there, she has to develop a relationship with a oddball psychic played by Selma Hayek. The climax of the film depends on the third act working, and there were some shortcuts taken that probably needed some explanation. The sudden appearance of a romantic rival, and the absence of any story concerning the developing love affair, makes the transition to the third act very jolting.  This was another opportunity to take the satiric route suggested by the trailer, instead of the epic path the film tries to follow. Scott and writers Becky Johnston, Roberto Bentivegna and book author Sara Gay Forden, insist on playing it straight when a mocking sarcastic tone would have helped make the movie come alive. 


The film looks marvelous with expensive locales and lush furnishings and artwork distributed throughout the interiors. The timeline for the story is suggested by title cards but there seem to be gaps in time that can cause confusion. The soundtrack of contemporary music used to set scenes or make transitions is fitting for the times although not necessary accurate as to when the music was released. That is a minor criticism, but those of us who lived through the era will probably be the only ones who notice it, and no one will or should care. Although based on real people, the film plays like a soap opera but does not quite embrace the high camp that can make a movie like this entertaining. This is the second Best Ridley Scott Movie of the year, but it is the one that is more successful. Sometimes it is the material rather than it’s execution that matters.

Their Finest

I had a Friday Afternoon free, my daughter was home and suggested we see a film. I checked Flixter to see what was new and available. “The Circle” had lousy ratings, but that does not always discourage me. “How to be a Latin Lover”, no, that’s not going to happen. Then I saw this, a movie that I’d never heard of but which featured a World War Two Setting, the making of a film, and it had Bill Nighy in it. Why the hell was I not already at the theater? Twenty minutes later we were, and boy am I glad I happened across this.

This film went from not even being a blip on my radar to being my favorite film of the year so far. It has many old fashioned elements so it may not seem like a film modern audiences will flock to, but they should . The old fashioned story telling, character development and plot are just the ticket for people who want a movie that does not feature super heroes( at least until next week), car chases, and hipper than thou irony which is unearned. This film has a romance, a war to win, a movie to make, and enough heartbreak to last for the summer. People who love movies will appreciate the title of the book it is based on and it will make the current title make more sense. [“Their Finest Hour…and a half”].

In the months after Great Britain was forced to retreat from the continent, and stood alone against the monstrosity of the Third Reich, it’s morale was battered. The blitz was taking place and Londoners were forced into shelters if they were lucky, and dug out of the ruble if they were not. A young woman, who did a cartoon for a local paper, gets tapped to assist with the script of War Time propaganda films. As the head writer terms it, “the slop” you know, women’s dialogue. The film makers are struggling to find the right tone for the informational films that are shown between the regular features. A Hungarian producer, anxious to make a great film to aid the war effort comes across a story that might be just the thing to lift up a beleaguered population.

Gemma Arterton, Miss Strawberry Fields herself, plays Catrin Cole, a woman struggling to stay with her artist husband in London during the bombings, so happy to have some work to pay the rent. While it is a little quick to go from punching up lines in a PSA to co-writing a script for a major production, it is a lot more believable than the old line of going out as an understudy but coming back as a star. The film gives us glimpses of how she might re-write dialogue to be more appealing to a female audience, and sometimes change the tone of what is going on. Sam Claflin plays her sexist boss, the main writer of the film. Their story line is full of ups and downs that seem natural in the wartime circumstances and the date at which the story is set. Sexual politics and gender warfare have existed a long time before the sixties and here is a case where it breaks out at just the right time.

Cast as an aging matinee idol of a series of disposable detective thriller, Bill Nighy is an actor who reluctantly is cast in a part that is perfect for him. The way in which it all comes about is also a part of the background of the film. With a name like Ambrose Hilliard, you almost don’t need the character to have an actor to go with the part, but Nighy fills the movie with some great moments of pathos as well as humor. My daughter thought we were going to see a comedy, and we did, it’s just that it’s a human comedy, and that includes the sad with the happy. The funny bits are all great, but Nighy really shines in two dramatic sequence. In one, he joins the film crew and cast in singing old homilies that bring the group together like music must have done during war time. Later he has a few minutes of philosophy to share that helps propel the movie to the ending that it really does deserve.

The randomness of destruction and the capriciousness of the heart are subjects of the movie as well. I  know the Brits must have wondered what their American cousins were doing on the sidelines during this period. They soldiered on as best they could, with tragedy a moment away or a step around the corner. When the film making process is shown on screen, we get some nice behind the scenes laughs, but when the completed film is revealed in bits, I dare anyone to be able to keep a dry eye. If this film had really been made, we might have joined the war effort before Pearl Harbor. Sure it was propaganda, but it probably would have worked like gangbusters.

This movie had no ads, promos, billboards or other marketing to sell it, at least here in the states. That is an absolute shame. With the Christopher Nolan film “Dunkirk” ready to screen this summer, this is a perfect appetizer. The story of the rescue of British soldiers is a key ingredient in this picture. We are spared the impact that the war had on individual soldiers but we get a good dose of what it did to folks on the home-front with this movie. Oh, and just in case you are not sold on the film yet, Jeremy Irons pops in for about three minutes of perfection, and makes you remember how great he is in almost everything he does.