House of Gucci – a lesson on how not to make a filmAug 23, 2022
House of Gucci – a lesson on how not to make a film
Sometimes there are movies that get under your skin for all the right reasons. Either the storyline is so gripping that it stays with you for days after. Or there are lines in the script that you find you go over and over again in your mind.
And then there are the other movies. The ones that definitely leave an impression …but in all the wrong ways. Learning how to analyse films good and bad, is one of the best ways to develop your own craft.
Was it bad because the acting was wooden. Did plot have more holes than Swiss cheese. You felt mislead by the genre and the actors don’t seem to suit their roles. You lost interest quickly?
To be fair, not too many movies make me feel this way. As a filmmaker, I always try to see the positives. I know how much effort and energy goes into making a motion picture and if the one I choose to zone out to on a Friday night doesn’t do it for me, it doesn’t mean that the film is bad. It’s just not the film for me.
But as a filmmaker it’s also really important to analyse the films you watch. What worked, what didn’t and why? You can learn so much from watching films that you can then apply to your own work.
Even Quentin Tarantino says “I steal from every movie ever made.”
Sometimes it’s very easy to pick apart a film and I think picking apart the bad ones is often much easier than figuring out what worked with the great ones. But if you want to make movies, then it’s worth getting analytical with the films you watch. Learn learn learn.
This will also help you understand who the audience is for your own projects as well. If you’re looking to get a project off the ground, one of the first things any potential funder will ask you, whether you’re making a documentary or a major motion picture, is “who’s going to watch this film, who is the audience?”
Paramount, Netflix, Amazon. They will know who a film is for well before they green light production. They have to know who the intended audience is. It then feeds into their choice of suitable actors, locations, wardrobe choices, everything! Everything relates to who the audience is that’s going to pay for a ticket (or subscription). If huge studios just made a film and hoped people liked it, they would not be in business.
Don’t be fooled by the bright lights and the idea that film making is all Art. It’s a business like any other and films are the product. I’m not trying to diminish the incredible creativity and talent that goes into making a film. I’m just pointing out that the big players always start with ‘Who is the audience for this story?’.
And this leads me to the experience I had recently when I watched House of Gucci.
I have a lot of feelings about this film. Considering the biographical crime drama film was directed by the legendary Ridley Scott, I’ve decided there’s no shame in letting rip either.
So here goes.
This is my honest review of the film inspired by the family behind the Italian fashion empire and why I think it unfolds like a lesson on how not to make a movie in 2022.
If you’ve not seen House of Gucci, here’s a quick rundown
Based on the 2001 book The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden. House of Gucci follows Patrizia Reggiani, who married Maurizio Gucci, the heir to the Gucci fashion house, in the 1970s.
The pair became one of Italy’s first power couples and were regularly spotted on New York and Milan’s heady party circuit.
But after Maurizio suddenly left Patrizia in the mid 1980s, she was blindsided. Patrizia filed for divorce in the 1990s when Maurizio began dating another woman. Not long after, Maurizio was shot and killed by a hitman. Eventually, Patrizia was arrested and accused for hiring the hitman and she ended up serving more than 25 years in prison.
It is an extraordinary tale of glamour, betrayal and murder – set against the dizzying world of high fashion. And shockingly, it’s all true.
I have to admit I knew nothing of this story prior to clicking play to stream it one evening. The trailer made it look like a comedy!
So how did the film adaptation get it so wrong?
For one, the there was no cohesive structure. If you’ve been following my blog for a while or are a subscriber to the Moonshine Moonshot series, you’ll know that I’m all about structure and formats.
In fact, my co-host Mike Hill and I dedicated a whole episode of Moonshot to video formats, which you can check out here
In all honestly, I spent the first 40 minutes of House of Gucci thinking I was watching a pretty ordinary comedy. And then, almost out of nowhere, it became a dour drama.
I was so perplexed by what genre this film was trying to fall into that I went back to my old copy of Blake Snider’s Save the Cat! Goes to the movies. And after half an hour of re reading his cheat sheet of movie genres. I could not place House of Gucci into any of them.
I’m still confused! But the description ‘biographical crime drama’ does sum it up, however, it lacks any explanation for what you actually see unfold on screen.
My advise, use this film as a cautionary tale, if you’re thinking about creating a video in the not too distant future, please don’t suddenly switch genres on your audience. They’ll just end up feeling lost and confused, wondering if Gremlins have crawled into their TV and switched the program on them.
The three act structure is considered the cornerstone of great films for a reason, folks! But so too is keeping to the rules of the genre. And I would argue the first is to pick a genre and stick to it. Unless you’re a brilliant filmmaker with an excellent track record. But then this was made by Ridley Scott, so even the greats can get it wrong.
Keep this in mind no matter what type of video content you’re making – a feature film, a YouTube series or even just something to include in your company newsletter.
If you want to make a video that is watched all the way through, a cohesive story and defined structure is the best way to go.
Another way House of Gucci missed the mark for me?
The casting was just …off. I often say this because it’s true – casting really is key.
Don’t get me wrong, the script, the plot, the setting and the wardrobe are all super important. But if you don’t cast the right talent, your film or video can just end up being a total flop.
I want to be clear here too: my critique is nothing against the actors themselves. The line up was superb. On paper.
Lady Gaga played Patrizia and she does actually have an uncanny likeness to the Italian socialite and convicted criminal. While Adam Driver (who will always be the emotionally unstable Adam in Girls to me) as Maurizio seems like a good pick in theory too.
Throw in Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Salma Hayek and you really should have a recipe for Hollywood success. But I just didn’t really feel a connection with anyone. No one was able to hold my attention or keep me invested in the story. I didn’t like the wardrobe choices (Lady Gaga’s Patrizia was way too styled for my taste) and the script was all over the place.
Mike, however, has a different take on why the casting didn’t work. He felt that it was all a bit ‘nose-ist’ –meaning everyone had big noses, so small nosed viewers struggled to relate.
Sure, that’s a niche opinion but I understand what Mike’s getting at. You’ve got to cast people who are like your audience. They need to be a little bit relatable.
This advice is especially pertinent for your own video productions, particularly if you want your audience to feel inspired and ready to join your mission once the end scene fades to black.
Mike and I dig beyond the surface of casting the right talent in episode 11 of the Moonshine Moonshot series. It’s called ‘Who should tell your video story?’ and you can watch it now by clicking here.
I’m not the only one with these opinions by the way
House of Gucci has been panned by critics. A review in the New Yorker called it “hollow” while the Irish Times labeled it a ‘‘plodding, pointless, film”. Even the Gucci family themselves have issued a statement saying that they are “a bit disconcerted” with the whole thing.
My colleague Evie also had a few thoughts to say too, commenting “It’s a great story, so it’s such a shame that it didn’t live up to the potential. It was poorly directed, it was lacking cohesion and they needed to give it more of a stylistic approach. And lean into the flair of Gucci. It could’ve been a lot more fun.”
I’d love to hear your take on the film though!. Have you seen it? What did you think? What stuck with you and what made you want to run out of the cinema?
And if you’re thinking ‘Yikes” I’m not a marketing exec for Disney or Amazon, how am I going to figure out who my audience is? I don’t have endless streams of data to analyse from past box office, gallop polls and historical dates.”
There are also techniques that are not proprietary or impossible for lay folks to access. In my online course ‘Define Your Ideal Audience’ I teach a values based approach to identifying your ideal audience through a plan that’s easy to apply to any project. I use the Ideal Audience Plan for all my own projects so I know it works. You can check it out here www.moonshinecommunicationsacademy.com
So that’s a wrap on my rant today. Don’t let a bad film be a waste of time, analyse it and figure out what you can learn from it for your own work.
Finally, if you’re now thinking to yourself, "Imagine if someone wrote a scathing review about my film!’, park that self doubt immediately and head over to the Moonshine Moonshot YouTube series.
Every Tuesday, Mike Hill and I discuss all the ways to make impactful videos that wow audiences and keep them coming back for more.
Head over there now by clicking here and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode.
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