Film

House of Gucci review: A decadent parade of high camp and dodgy accents

Lady Gaga leaves nothing on the table in this true story of a murder plot at the heart of the Gucci empire, writes Hanna Flint.

Lady Gaga stars as Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci. Image: Fabio Lovino / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

House of Gucci is as absurdly entertaining as you might expect from a prestige drama about an iconic Italian fashion house and the romance that led to betrayal, revenge, murder and, ultimately, the downfall of the family who built it.

It’s the story of the ambitious Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) who marries her way into the Gucci family by way of the studious Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver). He is less interested in the fashion empire but as she pushes him to wrest power from his uncle Aldo (Al Pacino), a marital rift forms and her anger leads to deadly consequences. 

Based on true events, what adds to the decadent fun and ridiculousness of Ridley Scott’s latest cinematic endeavour is that none of his all-star cast is actually Italian. Well, Gaga and Pacino are Italian-American but their naturally thick New York voices are a far cry from Patrizia’s and Aldo’s, as are their fellow actors compared to their characters. 

So, what we have is a film set predominantly in Italy with the cast delivering their lines in English, save a few phrases, with their best attempt at Italian accents. The results are certainly questionable.

Jeremy Irons, who plays Maurizio’s father Rodolfo Gucci, variously stumbles into his usual English voice; Jared Leto sounds like he’d played a few too many games of Super Mario Bros as Paolo Gucci while Adam Driver offers a more restrained interpretation of Maurizio, but his midwestern accent doesn’t quite hit the right notes.

The most attention, however, has been on Lady Gaga’s voice work. The pop star-turned-Oscar-nominated actress recently said that she spoke as Patrizia throughout the shoot. “I spoke with an accent for nine months of that,” she told British Vogue. “Off-camera. I never broke. I stayed with her.”

Unfortunately, ever since the first trailer dropped Gaga’s been criticised by some, Italians especially, who think she sounds more Eastern European. Even Italian actor and dialect coach Francesca De Martini agreed with the social media consensus.

“I feel bad saying this, but her accent is not exactly an Italian accent, it sounds more Russian,” De Martini, who was working with Salma Hayek for her role in the film as Giuseppina ‘Pina’ Auriemma, told The Daily Beast.

“I was noticing when I was on set because I had earphones working with Salma and hearing what she was saying so I could help her to get it right, so I could hear Lady Gaga as well.”

To be fair, Hayek doesn’t really sound much different from her usual timbre, so one wonders how effective a voice coach De Martini really is. But the House of Gucci cast is certainly not the first or last to be accused of butchering the accents of the characters they play.

Just this month, social media exploded with laughter at the mockney accent Oscar Isaac delivers in the first teaser from Disney+ series Moon Knight. He sounds less East End and more like Paul Rudd doing an impression of Russell Brand in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. You don’t sound like you’re from Laandan, Oscar!

And as someone who grew up between the capital and Doncaster, I often find myself wincing when northern accents are attempted too. In another of Scott’s films, Robin Hood, Russell Crowe made rather awkward work of the eponymous outlaw’s South Yorkshire twang.

To be fair, there’s never been a movie star to get Hood’s voice right and it makes you wonder, certainly in the last 30 years, why Sean Bean hasn’t been given the opportunity.

Then there are the spectacular fails of Anne Hathaway in One Day, Josh Hartnett in Blow Dry and, more recently, Alicia Vikander in The Green Knight. The north remembers! 

Maybe these productions need to hire better dialect coaches because as long as they require big Hollywood names to draw audiences in we’re rarely going to see the casting of lesser-known actors from the places these films are set.

That being said, realistically, the average moviegoer isn’t going to care too much about how badly an actor delivers an accent if the performance is strong enough, and Gaga’s is pretty impressive.

She eats up every scene that she’s in and fully commits to the forceful, eccentric and increasingly temperamental nature of her character that keeps your attention rapt even if the story is somewhat bloated.

Gaga said she suffered “psychological difficulties” because of the demands of the role and that’s not surprising. Her turn might not be full-throated but it’s full-bodied, and she leaves nothing on the table.

House of Gucci is in cinemas from November 26.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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