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**Warning: Spoilers for both book and movie!**
House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamor, and Greed by Sarah Gay Forden (2001)
House of Gucci directed by Ridley Scott (2021)
The book tells the story of how Guccio Gucci started the Gucci business, which was taken over by his sons (Aldo and Rodolfo). Their respective sons, Paulo and Maurizio came into the business as they got older and the grandsons of Guccio is when there started to really be drama and backstabbing in the business.
Maurizio married a woman named Patrizia Reggiani whom he later divorced and over time she had an obsessive hatred for him which culminated in his murder.
The movie shows the family drama, but for the most part focus on Maurizio and Patrizia.
Thoughts on the book
I was excited to read this book because it seemed like the type of nonfiction book I would enjoy. However, there is far too much corporate talk for my taste. When we are reading about the family drama, or learning about individuals, I enjoyed it. So much of it though is about the business itself! Which I guess I should have expected.
Forden clearly did a lot of research for this book, unfortunately she didn’t write the business side in a way that made it accessible and interesting for those who don’t have an interest in the corporate world.
Like I said though, when learning about the murder of Maurizio and other family dynamics it kept me interested. (Though to be honest, if it wasn’t for doing this podcast, I don’t think I would have bothered finishing it.) I also liked the tangents about people who worked for Gucci that weren’t part of the Gucci family such as Dawn Mellow, Tom Ford and Dominico De Sole. The business side of things could be interested when it was talking about how various Gucci family members did each other dirty by squeezing them out.
Despite the less than stellar reviews I had glances at prior to seeing the movie, I still went into it hopeful. It is over two and a half hours long, yet it seemed to fly by, which is a good sign that I didn’t get bored. The second half, specifically the last hour had me more interested then the first half did.
My biggest complaint is that there were a number of scenes that just seemed awkward (but maybe it was supposed to be awkward…) as well as scenes that just seemed to fall flat.
However, I did walk out of the theater feeling like it was an enjoyable theater experience.
I knew the movie was focusing on Patrizia, but I was still disappointed they didn’t go more in the Gucci background with Guccio and the early days with Aldo and the brothers in charge. As far as business goes, the movie did a better job of lessening all the corporate talk and by doing so, made that side of things a bit more interesting. I did wonder though how audience members who hadn’t read the book felt about that side of it and if it was confusing.
The movie also changes the dates, which I wasn’t sure why they did it. For example, Patrizia and Maurizio were married in ’72, but they movie moved it later to ’78. They have the death of Maurizio on the real date he actually died though.
The movie does have all the main characters using fake Italian accents, but this actually didn’t bother me and it wasn’t a distraction. Aside from Leto’s accent which just seemed too over the top.
Literally, all the major players in this movie have been at least nominated for an Oscar, which is pretty awesome to have a cast like that!
Lady Gaga is wonderful as Patrizia Reggiani Gucci. I wouldn’t say she blew me away, but she gives a great performance. I read that she didn’t want to meet the real Patrizia and didn’t read the book. She said she didn’t want any outside influences on who Patrizia Gucci is. I kinda think though, when you’re playing a real person you kind of should meet the real person or at least read up on them. She said she read newspaper articles about her but that’s it. Anyway, regardless, Gaga is wonderful.
I also want to mention the wardrobe in this movie-so many great outfits! I am sure it will get an Oscar nomination. Gaga has her great red ski suit with the fur hat, a look that is just so amazing and stands out so much. Also her winter outfit when she first arrives at the ski resort. But even outside of the ski scenes, this movie has great costume design with the men and women’s outfits.
Adam Driver is great as Maurizio Gucci. I have some complaints with his character early on, which we will get to, but overall, I thought he was great. Maurizio has quite the character arc and he showed that change from naïve, to selfish, to at peace with himself.
Al Pacino for the most part, is excellent as Aldo Gucci. There is a scene with Irons and Pacino and I didn’t think they had much chemistry together.
Jeremy Irons is Aldo’s brother and Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo Gucci. He isn’t in much of the movie, but what he is in, I thought he was good. We learn in the movie that he was a former actor. The movie shows him watching old films, but it leaves out his project he worked on and constantly changed which was a “movie” that had clips of him and his wife from their movies days, along with home videos. He would have viewing parties each time he tweaked it and had one final viewing when he knew he didn’t have much time left to live.
Jared Leto is Aldo’s son, Paolo Gucci. He is the comedic relief of the movie and to be honest, Leto doesn’t pull off the comedy. Watching this made me realize I have only watched Leto in serious roles, in which he is amazing. This movie shows that comedy is not his forte. His lines just seemed to fall flat.
Having said that, reviews I’ve seen for this movie praise Leto! I agree, he was very unlike his normal character he plays but it just didn’t work for me personally. I also wasn’t as sympathetic towards Paulo as other reviewers were, and maybe because having read the book I knew what was coming.
Salma Hayek is in the fairly small role of Pina, Patrizia’s psychic (in real life Patrizia really was into psychics and all that) friend, and later, accomplice.
Also, fun fact, Hayek is married to François-Henri Pinault, founder and CEO of the French multinational Kering, which owns the Gucci brand as of 2021.
Early in Patrizia and Maurizio’s relationship
The movie starts with Patrizia meeting Maurizio at an epileptic seizure inducing dance party. Maurizio is kind of a bumbling idiot initially, which I wasn’t a fan of. Like, maybe not bumbling, he’s no tripping over himself or anything. And he’s not an idiot because he talks about how he is studying to be a lawyer. He is just very bland at the start of the movie. I know he was trying to play timid and shy, but it just came off as bland.
Once he moves out of his fathers house, I think Driver really starts to shine.
Patrizia pursues him to the extent of following him to stage a meeting and having an awkward scene where she gets him to ask her on a date.
In real life, Maurizio noticed Patrizia at the party and asked a friend about her. He was smitten from the start and pursued her. Unlike the movie, it wasn’t all Patrizia doing the chasing.
Maurizio was disowned by Rodolfo because he wanted to be with her and ended up working for her father and living with them as the movie shows. The father had Patrizia go away for a year, saying if they were still interested after a yea, they could be married. The separation only made them want each other more, and they were married with no other Gucci’s present-which the movie shows.
Patrizia playing a part in the business
Early in their marriage, Patrizia and Maurizio move to New York where Maurizio works for Aldo. Patirzia may give her two cents, and was a little bosy but she didn’t play as big a part in the business as the movie shows.
The movie has the scene where she sees that counterfeits are being sold and Aldo doesn’t care. This was not the case in the book. Aldo found out about the fakes before her time, if I recall, and filed so many lawsuits to various counterfeit makers. During this part of the movie, Aldo basically tells Patrizia that this is a men’s world/a men’s business. This was never said to her in real life, because she never played a part in the business aside from making suggestions to Gucci at home. In real life, Guccio, Aldo and Rodolfo’s father, did believe women shouldn’t be involved in the business. He had three sons (the movie left one out) as well as a daughter. When he died, he split the business up between the three sons, not leaving any shares to his daughter.
Patrizia made a good impression on Aldo, which the movie shows, and she also helped Maurizio fix his relationship with his father with Aldo’s help. The movie makes it seem like they mended their relationship right before Rodolfo died, but they had more time in the book.
With Rodolfo, his wife died with Maurizio was still young and he became very controlling of Maurizio. He wouldn’t give him much pocket money at all, and Maurizio would always turn to the chauffer for money when he wanted to take a girl on a date or something.
The movie also shows when Rodolfo dies, he forgot to sign the paper signing the shares over to Maurizio. Maurizio did have legal troubles after his fathers death and a woman tesitified to the signature being forged. However, they did at some point find a safe that had the needed paperwork. Maurizio was found not guilty. Once again, the book doesn’t mention Patrizia in regard to a forged signature the way the movie insinuates.
Aldo had three sons, but the movie only shows Paulo. In real life, there was more drama with Paulo than with the other two, who weren’t really mentioned much so it makes sense the movie got rid of them.
Amway, the movie shows Paulo starting a brand with his own name and Patrizia is the brain behind fooling him and getting him to stop.
In real life, she was not involved with that at all. It may have even been before her time. Aldo and Rodolfo were the ones that had to deal with Paolo.
As said, in the movie Paulo is the comedic relief and his scenes just didn’t work for me. In some ways he was portrayed accurately, he really did own pigeons, he wanted to start his own clothing line and was just a hassle for his father and uncles to deal with. I don’t know if he was as much a buffoon as the movie made him out to be though.
Also, side fact, Paulo and Aldo were both bigamists! They had wives they had married with in Italy or England and in America met someone else. The first wife wouldn’t give a divorce so they just married the other women in a different country. Like father like son in that respect.
The movie shows Paulo, Maurizio and Patrizia turning against Aldo and turning him in for tax evasion embezzling. In real life, the lawyer Dominico De Sole kept telling Aldo he needed to pay his taxes but Aldo had a very Italian view on taxes. In real life, as in the movie, he did serve a year and a day in jail for his taxes.
Maurizio also did buy him and Paulo out, with the help of Investcorp. Aldo died soon after, and they say that Gucci gave him life, and when he was out of the business, he just lost the desire to live.
In the movie, the scene where they meet with Aldo to buy him out is so well done. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole movie.
I do want to touch on Domenico De Sole real quick. He was a lawyer that was brough in for some reason, and he stood up to Aldo in the meeting. Rodolfo was so impressed, he hired him personally. After Rodolfo’s death, he stayed on and worked for the company. In the end, as we see in the movie, he is made CEO.
The movie briefly shows Tom Ford, but in the book, we go more into Ford. We also hear how when De Sole is in charge, he and Ford cultivated a great working relationship where they both trusted the other. Others told De Sole he was letting his designer have too much power, but Sedole trusted Ford to do his thing and bring success to Gucci-which he did.
The movie does show how initially Maurizio seemed to have no interest in running Gucci. Once he started though, he just took over and kicked all the other Gucci’s out! Then he was in so much debt, he himself had to be bought out. He did become rather cold blooded. Rodolfo warned Patrizia before he died, to look out for Maurizio, because once someone got a position of power and money, it changed them.
Maurizio did have a vision for the future of Gucci and because of hiring the right people, he was able to turn it around. But he was just a bad manager, or CEO, and didn’t make good financial decisions.
I think the movie painted both Maurizio and Patrizia in a realistic light. They didn’t make either out to be the hero or the villain. Though of course Patrizia is the one that hires a hitman to kill him so ultimately she was more of the villain in real life and in the movie.
The movie shows how she would leave him these scathing messages (in the book I think it was tape cassettes she would send him). She began to have an obsessive hatred for him which the movie shows.
The woman he lives with after Patrizia, was as the movie shows, someone he had known from childhood and she was even at his and Patrizia’s wedding (which the movie doesn’t show).
Something the movie left out, is the fact that Patrizia had a brain tumor at one point! She blamed Maurizio, saying he was causing her so much stress, he gave her a tumor. The doctors didn’t guarantee her much time to live and had to operate.
Maurizio didn’t even bother going to the hospital to support his daughters and his ex-wife in this life-threatening situation.
The movie shows when they are Switzerland for Christmas and in the book Patrizia had high hopes that the Christmas trip there would rekindle their fading relationship. This however did not happen. The movie shows him giving her a Bloomingdales gift card for Christmas which is of course a huge insult. In real life he had given her a vintage watch which seems less hurtful; except for the fact that he knew Patrizia disliked vintage jewlery.
In real life, I believe Maurizio left the trip, whereas in the movie Maurizio has Patizia and their daughter taken back home and he stays.
While she was recovering, they asked Maurizio is he could watch the girls, but he said he was too busy with work and couldn’t. This whole part definitely does not show him in good light.
Patrizia was also diagnosed with narcissism which flared up when Maurizio left her. That is one of the reasons she did not receive a life sentence.
She had the option to get out of jail sooner, on a work order program to which she replied, “I’ve never worked in my life, and I’m certainly not going to start now.” By the way, she never worked for her dad the way the movie shows. The book also talks about how her mother encouraged her to marry someone rich with a good name. Patrizia was even dating another guy at some point, but her mother made her break it off because he wasn’t rich enough or from a high enough family.
Anyway, she was released from prison in 2016 after serving 18 years.
I watched a review for this movie and the reviewer said the movie didn’t really show why Patrizia wanted Maurizio dead. I think had they included the tumor event it would have made much more sense. It was after that, that she began sending him those tapes. In real life she also went on tv, trashing Maurizio’s name.
The murder and the trial
The ending of this movie felt very abrupt. Once Maurizio is bought out by Investcorp, we move to his murder. From there we flashforward to Patrizia’s trial. We aren’t even given a trial scene though and instead are told everything that happens in one of those end of movie montages. I’m fine with montages by the way, I just wish they would have spent less time building the relationship in the beginning and put more into the events proceeding the murder.
In real life, Patrizia had Paula kicked out (as the movie shows) and as time went on, Pina and the men she hired told her they wanted more money. She was living in luxury thanks to Maurizio’s death, and they felt that what she was paying wasn’t enough. This ultimately is what led to them being caught. Throughout the trial, Patrizia denied her involvement, though she admitted to hating Maurizio.
The day Patrizia and the others were convicted, the Gucci stores put diamond studded handcuffs in the display window, but claimed it was unrelated.
Book or Movie
I actually enjoyed the movie more than the book in this case. The book just dragged too much for my taste. Though I think I was able to enjoy the movie more since I went into it knowing the real story and I could fill in the blanks that the movie left. Had I gone into this movie cold, I don’t think I would have liked it as much.
Having said that, neither book nor movie are ones I would return to any time soon. I don’t think I will ever read the book again though, where down the line I may watch this movie. The more time passes, as I think about it the more it’s growing on me. Also, I want to mention the trailer. When it’s a movie I know I will see, I always avoid trailers so I didn’t watch this trailer till after watching the movie; and the trailer is awesome. Highly recommend.