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Non-Review Review: House of Gucci

At its core, House of Gucci is the story of how the handbag is made.

Trying to convince his nephew Maurizio to take the reigns on the family business, Aldo Gucci explains that the cows that provide the leather for the company’s products are part of a long dynasty. Much like Aldo and his brother Rodolfo inherited the company from their own father Guccio Gucci, these cows are the direct descendents of the animals upon which the brand was established. To Aldo, Gucci is a fmaily business, right down to the cows that are fattened for slaughter. Aldo insists that the cows deserve praise for what they have given their owners. However, the cows still inevitably get skinned.

Where there’s smoke…

House of Gucci returns time and again to this animal imagery. “Gucci is a rare animal,” Domenico De Sole warns Patrizia Reggiani at one point, as the family consider how best to maintain the brand. “It must be protected.” It’s no coincidence that, towards the climax of the movie, the investors debating the future of the family’s ownership of the brand enjoy delicious cuts of steak. It’s rare, of course, the blood visible as they cut into it. The imagery is hardly subtle. Perhaps Aldo and his family have more in common with the cows than they’d like to acknowledge.

House of Gucci feels like something of a companion piece to two other recent Ridley Scott films, The Counsellor and All the Money in the World. Both feel like extrapolations of themes that have bubbled across the director’s filmography, from his earliest work on movies like Alien and Blade Runner. They are cautionary tales about the terrible things that people will do to one another for money, shaped by the ironic understanding that even after all these terrible things are done, nobody really wins. House of Gucci is not a particularly subtle movie, but it doesn’t need to be.

Glass act.

House of Gucci is similar to The Counsellor and All the Money in the World in other ways, as a movie that feels significantly less than the sum of its parts. Then again, what parts they are. House of Gucci doesn’t really hang together cohesively as a movie, often feeling like several smaller movies wrestling for control of the narrative. Every major member of the cast feels like they are the star of their own movie, but not necessarily an essential part of this movie. House of Gucci puts Howard Hawks’ “three great scenes” hypothesis to the test, compiling a number of compelling individual scenes that rarely add to something greater.

House of Gucci is an interesting, disjointed, uneven but strangely compelling study of what wealth does to people – particularly when it no longer needs them.

A familiar ring to it.

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101. A Star is Born (#182) – This Just In

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and with special guest Stacy Grouden, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 182nd best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Rosie

Rosie is a a very timely piece of Irish cinema, but one that never loses sight of the humanity of this national crisis.

From beginning to end, Rosie is infused with an endearing humanity. Writer Roddy Doyle and director Paddy Breathnach keep the story tightly focused on one particular family caught in the midst of the homeless crisis. Breathnach often literalises this, with a handheld camera that keeps the film literally centred on the face of the eponymous protagonist. Even in wide open spaces, even in public, even when she’s the only adult crossing a green or a schoolyard, Rosie is so tightly focused that it feels claustrophic and almost suffocating.

This is the point, of course. Rosie is a very visceral film, and with good reason. Doyle and Breathnach work hard to ensure that the audience feels ever minor crisis, and that it understands precisely how precarious the situation facing this family happens to be. A delayed lunch break seems catastrophic, a child spending time with a friend seems like a disaster. Time is fleeting, and always slipping through the fingers of its protagonist. When life seems to unfold moment to moment, there is no opportunity to catch her breath or to worry about the bigger picture.

Rosie is a fascinating piece of Irish cinema, both timely and intimate, both reflecting contemporary culture and telling its own story within that framework. It’s an impressive piece of work.

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Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Waters of Mars originally aired in 2009.

Adelaide, I’ve done this sort of thing before. In small ways, saved some little people, but never someone as important as you. Oh, I’m good.

Little people? What, like Mia and Yuri? Who decides they’re so unimportant? You?

For a long time now, I thought I was just a survivor, but I’m not. I’m the winner. That’s who I am. The Time Lord Victorious.

– the Doctor does a pretty poor job of comforting Adelaide

The Waters of Mars is the strongest of the specials that ran from the end of the fourth season of Doctor Who through to David Tennant’s regeneration into Matt Smith on New Year’s Day 2010. Despite teasing the issue in The Next Doctor and Planet of the Dead, The Waters of Mars is the first time that the show really engages with the mortality of the Tenth Doctor – exploring the idea that it might be time for the Tenth Doctor to leave. As much as the Tenth Doctor might be reluctant to leave, The Waters of Mars suggests that the character’s flaws are gaining critical mass and that his ego runs the risk of collapsing in on itself.

It’s a very bold and daring piece of Doctor Who, which is quite striking given the audience-pleasing “comfort food” nature of the other specials. Reinforcing ideas that Davies has been hinting at since the very start of the relaunch, The Waters of Mars is about how the Doctor can sometimes be absolutely terrifying.

This is what happens when the Doctor goes wrong.

This is what happens when the Doctor goes wrong.

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Dirty Dancing at the Grand Canal Theatre (Review)

It’s hard to fault Dirty Dancing Live, the latest in a long line of screen-to-stage translations of popular works. It’s not exactly bold, or challenging, or excessively original – but the stage show has a sense of style that fits the material, and an ensemble who can really move. Between that and a handsome leading man in Paul-Michael Jones, it should have everything necessary to satisfy the target audience – even if it won’t really convert to many skeptics.

Try to catch him dancin' dirty...

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Non-Review Review: Puss in Boots

Puss in Boots is a fun film. It’s a very fun family film that works because it never takes itself too serious. Breaking free of the increasingly irrelevant Shrek films, which devolved into exactly the type of feel-good fairy tale stories they originally savagely lampooned, Puss in Boots benefits from the freedom to define its own identity. Of course, it retains the trappings (after all, Puss inhabits a world with Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty and Little Boy Blue), but it doesn’t carry the same level of baggage that its parent series does. It’s not a vicious parody of Disney values, and in fact feels remarkably straight-forward. However, the simplicity of its approach is remarkably endearing, and means it’s easy to sit back and enjoy the ride. Puss in Boots is solidly entertaining family fair, arriving perfectly in time for the holidays.

Here, kitty kitty kitty...

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Non-Review Review: UHF

I like “Weird” Al Yankovic. I realise that there are many people out there who don’t find his pop song mash-ups like Another One Rides The Bus, Amish Paradise, Like Surgeon or White and Nerdy to be especially funny – and there are probably as many who find these riffs on popular tracks as insanely irritating. U.H.F. (perhaps better known as “the Weird Al Yankovic movie”) isn’t likely to change anybody’s opinion of the songwriter one way or the other. Which is to say that, while I could see quite a few flaws in it, it was smart and earnest enough that I ended up quite enjoyed it.

Gunning for the classics...

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