Chances are that by now, without even noticing, you’ve absorbed – by way of pop culture osmosis – the majority of Ridley Scott’s mad hatter biopic House of Gucci. Diabolical Italian accents? Check. OTT one-liners (“It’s time to take out the trrrash”)? Check check. A masterclass in high camp from Lady Gaga doing peak Gaga? All the checks.
Gaga flings everything she’s got at her role as Patrizia Reggiani: crazed eyes, flamboyant gesticulating, tight ’80s perm (as the film goes on, the curls seem to inflate in proportion to Patrizia’s increasing mania – give the perm an Oscar!). Patrizia marries into the Gucci family and later hires hitmen to kill her ex-husband, Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), in what is meant to be the shocking true crime story behind the gilded doors of the Gucci fashion empire. But amid our internal screams begging Lady Gaga to “give us less, queen”, we couldn’t help but notice one queen actually perfecting the art of subtle in a film that, much to its detriment, is about more, more and – in the case of Jared Leto – way too much.
Salma Hayek plays Giuseppina “Pina” Auriemma, a real-life psychic who swiftly becomes Patrizia’s confidante and, later, accomplice. Patrizia first lays eyes on Pina on the late-night TV equivalent of clairvoyant QVC, where Pina urges callers to contact her psychic pay-per-call service. Surrounded by swathes of red velvet and clouds of incense, fingers stacked with rings caressing a stack of tarot cards, she teases information out of power-mad and susceptible Patrizia, whose eyes widen hungrily, asking: “Will I get everything I want?”
Throughout the film, Pina – via pushy psychic prompts – seems to be the catalyst encouraging Patrizia to attempt to seize more power. In every tarot reading, cigarette smoke billows around the two women, the incessant meows of Pina’s several cats in the background (the crazy cat lady trope is used to its full extent here). Outfits include double velour co-ords, Gucci tracksuits and, eventually, her birthday suit in an iconic mud bath scene with Gaga. Yep, you heard right.
In a recent interview, Hayek revealed how, never having done a mud bath before, she started sloshing around, naked and panicking in front of a very calm Gaga: “Me, with my extra kilos, I sit on the mud and I’m not sinking. And I’m trying to [move the mud away from] my huge butt to make some weight [shift]. And then it starts moving me around and then there’s the boobs going [back and forth], you know.”
By the mud bath point of the film, Patrizia is hysterical with the stress and heartbreak of her impending divorce; at the same time, we’re getting strong bored undertones from Pina – our deadpan, disinterested advisor. In a sea of comically excessive – borderline offensive – performances from the likes of Al Pacino and Jared Leto, as well as abysmal accents from Jeremy Irons and Adam Driver, Salma Hayek is a little oasis of understated respite.
Salma Hayek actually has closer IRL ties to the Gucci empire than many might think. Her husband is none other than François-Henri Pinault, the CEO of luxury fashion group Kering, which owns Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and – yep, you guessed it – Gucci. She’s called the coincidence an “incestuous, strange, symbolic thing” but we’re currently enjoying the actress’ renaissance, dominating our screens in recent Marvel film Eternals as well as videos revealing her so-bizarre-it’s-iconic nighttime routine with her pet rescue owl (who WATCHES TV WITH HER ON HER iPAD).
At the end of the day, House of Gucci packaged itself to be high on the scheming, murder and riveting scandal but the reality is much more…well…tax evasion, making for a somewhat lacklustre plot. But give us Salma Hayek losing her shit in a mud bath in front of a very professional Gaga any day.
House of Gucci is out in UK cinemas on 26th November.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?