House of Gucci

Written by Taylor Baker

50/100

House of Gucci marks Ridley Scott’s second film of 2021 after his box office failure but critical success The Last Duel in October. It’s also his second film this year built around the actions of Adam Driver, who plays Maurizio Gucci. The films story and events are based on the real life story and assassination of Maurizio by his wife Patrizia. Maurizio is the grandson of Guccio Gucci the founder of Gucci. His wife Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) gives one of the years most notable very BIG performances.

Dariusz Wolski who’s served as cinematographer on nearly each of Scott’s projects since Prometheus once again picks up the camera for Scott. Shooting lavish estates, landscapes, interiors, and boisterous if offkey performances from Lady Gaga, Jared Leto, and Al Pacino. There is a quality of flatness to the film that seems out of place, the chic clothing, the wealth, all seem cheapened and almost ugly. With moments among cows and other outdoor sequences appearing more beautified. If purposeful it’s an interesting choice that builds as we reach the penultimate and looming murder, but it’s so baked in to the film that the film itself starts to feel ugly.

The retelling of cultural titans straddling the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe is something Scott recently did in All the Money in the World, which recounted the ransoming of John Paul Getty III. It notably also had thrust and intrigue, it casts an apt comparison for why Gucci fails. All the Money in the World was driven by human concerns, foibles, and seemingly real characters. House of Gucci on the other hand is a collection of hammy performances used seriously, rotating around a tamed Adam Driver who has a character reversal without explanation that is glaringly unearned. Interestingly among Money, Gucci, and The Last Duel it is the women who stand out and make the films, Michelle Williams, Lady Gaga, and Jodie Comer respectively. The difference is the men supporting Michelle and Jodie’s performances, stakes, and worlds made the material and vision coherently come to life. Which the combination of material, craftsmanship, and casting of Gucci failed to do.

House of Gucci loses its tone and pace in the early half and fails to coherently tie it’s characters emotional developments together by the end despite having plenty of runway to do so. Leto seems to be in a different picture than Driver, the same might be said of Irons and Pacino. Gaga nails being bigger than life while maintaining a consistent magnetism, but when she’s opposite Hayek, or acting “weak” the picture feels flimsy and begins to dissolve. Leaving us watching a star in the middle of a flashy rehashing that’s lost all intrigue and pull. House of Gucci is a messy overlong Oscar Nominee trailer, not the biopic juggernaut we’d all hoped for. 

House of Gucci Trailer

House of Gucci is playing in wide theatrical release.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

Episode 121: Lamb / The Last Duel / No Time to Die

“There’s nothing better than finishing something and looking at it. Whether it be a script or a movie, it’s this complete little thing that now exists and is hopefully immortal.”

Cary Joji Fukunaga, Director of No Time to Die

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On Episode 121 of Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of: House of Gucci & C’mon C’mon. Then dig into three New Releases: Lamb, The Last Duel, and No Time to Die.

Streaming links for titles this episode

Lamb and No Time to Die is currently available to rent and purchase on most major VOD platforms.

The Last Duel will become available for rent and purchase on November 29th.

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Michael Clawson on Letterboxd | Taylor Baker on Letterboxd

The Last Duel

Written by Taylor Baker

88/100

The Last Duel is a film in three acts, each act by a different writer, with a different lead character perspective revolving around two main events. That of a rape, and that of the titular duel. Matt Damon alone serves as both main character and writer for his segment. He plays Jean de Carrouges, a squire to Ben Affleck’s Count Pierre. Act one begins with a stirring exquisitely shot visceral battle at a river where Jean leads a charge of men into shallow water on horseback to drive back their foes. During this encounter he saves Adam Driver’s Jacques Le Gris from death, one of many matters to be disputed in the subsequent acts. Then time jumps as do locations. Jean recounts hist defeat to his count, and one day Le Gris who happens to be his dead child’s godfather turns up requesting taxes for the count. Jean cannot pay his full debt and he goes to battle in the north where he meets a woman named Marguerite de Carrouges played by acting phenom Jodie Comer. Eventually as expected the two wed, and Jean convinces Marguerite’s father to include a particular parcel of land in his dowry to Jean, a parcel that happens to be Marguerite’s favorite from her childhood. Events come to pass and eventually Jean departs for Paris, while he’s gone we learn that Jacques broke in and raped Marguerite leading to Jean’s demand of a trial by God, another name within the film and ostensibly of the time for a “duel”, to the death.

The second act’s main perspective and thus character is that of Jacques Le Gris played by Adam Driver. A squire who according to his recollection keeps Jean from killing himself at the river battle, that quickly rises up the ranks and gains his master Count Pierre’s ear. The segment itself is written by Affleck, witty and subjectively grotesque as it is convincing. Affleck creates a villainous lead that believes himself not only the center of universe outside of his master’s calls, but also a decider of emotions for those “less” than he. Driver is convicted and convincing as ever, speaking latin, playing court, and shaking down taxpayers. We see his own recollection of events against Jean’s; the locations and people are the same, but events and dialogue shift. Jacques naturally is heroically at the center of how he sees it. One day he meets Marguerite and after Jean insists she kiss Jacques to show there’s no ill will between the two and Jacques becomes enamored. We see the act of how Jacques saw his actions, which are grotesque at minimum, his lack of self awareness, his disregard toward Marguerite even in his presentation of recollection is beyond harrowing. It is in this segment that we see Jacques ask Count Pierre what to do, to which Pierre says, “Deny it. It never happened. Deny.” It’s not quite possible to put in this review how that segment hits, it’s bigger than an explanation can offer, the looks and feelings cast on Driver’s face in the scene breathe toward something that despite his awfulness could lead to something like redeeming, but then all at once, it’s snuffed out. This segment too ends at a trial.

The third act is written by renowned filmmaker and writer Nicole Holofcener. Who deftly, stoically, and openly lays bare not only the weaknesses and insecurities of the men in the first and second act but the pride, the ego, and the hurt that anyone involved in a rape may bear. With her segment the film graduates out of a sanctimonious competition between insecure warriors to a larger gradation of achievement. Heightening rather than underscoring Damon and Affleck’s segments before. She, Damon, and Affleck through the talented cast and crew but especially Scott and his talented DP Dariusz Wolski use the events of the past and how they’re presented to talk about the here and the now. Marguerite’s act is the most beautifully presented, the most emotional, and the most harrowing. It’s also the most impactful, so rather than recount and dig into the nuances of her segment I’ll leave it to you to experience.

There’s been a lot of discussion about when and if the definitive Times Up/Me Too film will turn up since 2018, and while I don’t think we’ll ever really know the definitive film of a large social movement or moment until time passes The Last Duel seems to be the most eloquent, stylized, and cinematic presentation of the difficulties that come from grappling with it in the open. The Last Duel is a film that simply cannot be accurately discussed in any capacity without mentioning rape or more specifically the rape that the whole film hinges around. Which may seem ugly, untoward, or disgusting to some, but by elevating the subject and the word “rape” itself into any conversation about the piece of art itself it’s forcing these hard conversations. The Last Duel itself doesn’t end in a way that asserts that one openly declaring publicly what happened to you is the right thing to do but rather expresses the truth of those emotions one may have. And the various reasons a woman may or may not make that personal choice. Being unable to discuss a film at all without mentioning rape hasn’t been done in this capacity since Irreversible and with Scott’s prolific filmmaking sincerity and Holofcener’s clear hearted voice at the center of the film I think you’ll find you’re better for watching it. I don’t suspect anyone thought that from the director of Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, American Gangster, etc, we’d be getting a powerful, emotional, and sincere presentation about the subject matter of the Times Up/Me Too movement. But we did, and we’re all the better for it.

The Last Duel Trailer

The Last Duel is currently playing in wide theatrical release.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

Episode 91: Raindance 2020 / He Dreams of Giants / A Dim Valley / Nafi’s Father

“Well, I really want to encourage a kind of fantasy, a kind of magic. I love the term magic realism, whoever invented it – I do actually like it because it says certain things. It’s about expanding how you see the world. I think we live in an age where we’re just hammered, hammered to think this is what the world is. Television’s saying, everything’s saying ‘That’s the world.’ And it’s not the world. The world is a million possible things.”

Terry Gilliam

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of Hillbilly Elegy & Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and the Raindance 2020 Titles: He Dreams of Giants, A Dim Valley, and Nafi’s Father.

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At this time there are no streaming links for titles this episode

He Dreams of Giants, A Dim Valley, and Nafi’s Father are currently seeking distribution and awaiting a formal release date announcement.

You can read Taylor’s review of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom here