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

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Deezer | Gaana | Google Podcasts | iHeartRadio | JioSaavn | LibSyn | Player FM | RadioPublic | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

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.

Visit us on your preferred Social Media Platform Letterboxd, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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.

Free Guy

Written by Anna Harrison

75/100

Late July, the frozen steak brand Steak-umm posted a lengthy Twitter thread, replete with steak puns galore, on “societal distrust in experts and institutions, the rise of misinformation, cultural polarization, and how to work toward some semblance of mutually agreed upon information before we splinter into irreconcilable realities.” A frozen thin-sliced steak brand then proceeded to elaborate on our current societal fracturing, making some pretty reasonable points in the process—it was remarkable and remarkably absurd. Yet this is where we are today—brands and corporations on Twitter (most of them much larger than Steak-umm) acting like people, using Twitter to wield millennial and Gen Z jargon as a marketing weapon. It can be funny, it can be thought-provoking, it can be really weird to see Netflix tweet about Nightcrawler’s critique of capitalism while it leeches people away from independent movie theaters. 

Free Guy, 20th Century Studios’ latest release (20th Century Studios sounds so naked without “Fox,” doesn’t it?), is all about critiquing unchecked corporate power, pushing for original ideas amidst a sea of sequels and remakes, and sticking it to the man even as it was distributed by a subsidiary of Disney, whose success almost single-handedly relies on fondness for IPs such as Marvel and Star Wars, IPs which have the cinematic world in a chokehold. Even as Free Guy lampoons its creators, it relies on those Disney brands for humor and cultural relevance (just look at its marketing).

But as long as you don’t think too much about it, Free Guy is a whole lot of fun. (Plus, the cameos and musical cues the Disney/Fox merger allowed the film to have are admittedly pretty damn funny.)

Free Guy’s titular hero, played by Ryan Reynolds with his usual charm, is a bit unusual: he’s an NPC (non-playable character) in Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite’s spiritual child, Free City. He goes through the day, hitting the same beats over and over again with his friend Buddy (Lil Rey Howery). He gets up, goes to work as a bank teller, suffers through the havoc that the playable characters wreak on his world, and goes to bed. His routine, however, changes when he spies playable character MolotovGirl (Jodie Comer), who awakens something in Guy that prompts him to break out of his programmed life.

MolotovGirl takes a great interest in Guy because, as it turns out, she created him. (There could be some Freudian analysis done here about how MolotovGirl is Guy’s creator/mother, but also his love interest… just saying.) Behind the computer screen, MolotovGirl goes by Millie, and she and Walter, aka Keys (Joe Keery), had once made an indie game called Free Life back in school, which had NPCs that would grow and evolve, like artificial intelligence, rather than simply go through the motions; the two had sold the game to Soonami Games, but its head, Antwan (Taika Waititi), shelved it and secretly used the code to build Free City. Millie, looking for proof to use against Antwan in her lawsuit, realizes that Guy could be the key.

Director Shawn Levy deftly balances the game and real worlds, seamlessly switching between the two and managing to entwine them organically, and he brings out good performances from all his cast members, proving again that Jodie Comer should be (and will be) a star, and giving hope that maybe Steve Harrington can have some luck with girls after all. (Joe Keery’s hair, by the way, does actually just look like that in real life, as I discovered when I spied him at brunch several years ago.) Waititi’s Antwan is perhaps better suited to be a zany NPC than a smarmy gaming developer, but he has his moments, too; everyone, at some point or another, gets a big belly laugh—or at least a hearty chuckle—from the audience, but underneath is a charming, heartfelt message on the power of creativity and the triumph that comes with not selling your soul to follow the money.

Yeah, it’s a bit of a weird throughline, considering who made the film; it’s hard to praise this as an original blockbuster when it relies so heavily on cultural knowledge of other things, but sometimes you just want to have fun, and Free Guy certainly delivers a sweet dose of it. There are weird video game weapons, Channing Tatum busting out some Fortnite inspired moves, a jacked version of Guy called “Dude” who goes around yelling, “CATCHPHRASE!,” and Taika Waititi acting absolutely out of his mind. It’s not going to win any Oscars, but it did more than enough to win me over.

Free Guy Trailer

You can follow more of Anna’s work on LetterboxdTwitterInstagram, and her website.