If you thought “Borat” (2006) started a frenzy of pop culture and consumers quoting lines for years, wait until we navigate the next couple months with Lady Gaga’s take on famed murderess Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s campy “House of Gucci” — which cement Mother Monster herself as one of the leading contenders for the best actress prize.
Gaga checks so many of the boxes of previous Oscar winners for best actress: She’s a beloved pop icon, taking a role that has her playing a sexy, batshit crazy fame and money-seeker. You can just imagine the old-timers saying to each other over cigars, “She’s just like my first wife…”
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At 35, Gaga has already won an Oscar for original song for “Shallow” from Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” (2018), for which she was also nominated for best actress. She lost the acting prize to Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”), who is also contending once again this year for her turn in the dramatically rich “The Lost Daughter” from Maggie Gyllenhaal. Could the Academy bestow an acting statuette on someone who is making just her sophomore feature film appearance? Looking at past winners like Cher for “Moonstruck” (1987) and Barbra Streisand for “Funny Girl” (1968), the Academy has been known to fall head over heels for artists making the transition from one medium to another. What helps Gaga is that many of the leading women contenders are coming from films that will have a more challenging time getting into the best picture race. If she’s among a lineup with Jessica Chastain, Colman, Penélope Cruz and Kristen Stewart, voters could lean toward the fun and entertaining, which Gaga unquestionably is in the role.
Jared Leto, a previous Oscar-winner for “Dallas Buyers Club” (2013) and near-nominee earlier this year for “The Little Things,” should prepare for another trip to the Dolby Theatre. He’s utterly transformed with prosthetics and a receding hairline. The 49-year-old actor takes his profession seriously, and each role is an opportunity to embody a new type of character. One comparable role could be Gary Oldman’s take on Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” (2017). With supporting actor as fluid as it is, and multiple men looking for recognition from the same film (i.e., “Belfast” and “The Power of the Dog”), I wouldn’t count out the possibility of a second statue to come his way, depending on the overall performance of the film within the Academy. Artisans Jana Carboni, Giuliano Mariano and Göran Lundström are likely to be honored for his transformation in makeup and hairstyling, possibly challenging presumed frontrunners “Dune” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”
Adam Driver has three films this year — “Annette” and Scott’s other film “The Last Duel,” and while he is beloved by Academy voters, with two career nominations thus far (“BlacKkKlansman” and “Marriage Story”), the category could be far too competitive this year for his un-showy performance to make a dent. The same goes for Salma Hayek, a previous nominee for “Frida” (2002). Her role is too small to make headway — although “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) and “American Hustle” (2013) nabbed all four acting slots, that possibility looks like a longshot for “House of Gucci.”
The rest of the sprawling cast could appeal to the SAG nominating committee and land in a cast ensemble lineup. With the likes of Oscar-winners Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino, along with impressive performers like Jack Huston and Camille Cottin, the famous faces could garner ensemble attention.
Scott, also serving as one of the producers, is a beloved figure in the industry. At 83, his career has garnered plenty of highs, with some duds sprinkled in. With three previous Oscar nominations in best director — “Thelma & Louise” (1991), “Gladiator” (2000), “Black Hawk Down” (2001) — and one as a producer for “The Martian” (2015), he seems overdue for a statuette. Is this the one? Pulling double duty this year with “Gucci” and the epic “The Last Duel,” he shows that he’s still looking to challenge himself. Looking back at one of his critically panned films, “The Counselor” (2013), you see the hints of the English filmmaker wanting to take on a subject that is narratively ludicrous and stylistically rich. His two films could split the vote, and the mixed reception to “The Last Duel” is another issue.
Screenshot Courtesy of YouTube/MGM
The 164-minute crime saga could divide audiences and critics, though it’s sure to have some passionate admirers. Adapted from the book “The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed” by Sara Gay Forden, screenwriters Roberto Bentivegna and Becky Johnston depict two different narratives that could appeal to members of the writing branch. One focuses on the Gucci family, with their corruption and betrayal showcasing their rise and imminent fall. That part is handled with dense precision, but in a sprawling saga, the murder portion of the story ends up coming out of left field. More seasoned scribes may have trouble with the structure, but with adapted screenplay lacking the depth of contenders, you could see the witty screenplay making a play for the space.
So, where else could it find traction? Fresh off his overdue first nomination for “News of the World,” Dariusz Wolski gives the film an exciting look that may appeal to the American Society of Cinematographers. The costumes by Oscar-winner Janty Yates (“Gladiator”) are impressive, and the film could follow the same Oscar-winning path as another fashion-obsessed film, “Phantom Thread” (2017). There’s not enough score for Harry Gregson-Williams to find love from the music branch, so voters can focus on “The Last Duel” to reward him with his first nomination.
With ten possibilities for best picture now, the acting branch is the largest of the Academy’s various groups. If Gaga and Leto are contending to win, it’s not often that the top category doesn’t coincide with such leading figures in those races. All I can say is, count your blessings that Halloween is over because next year, you’ll see Patrizia re-creations everywhere.
“House of Gucci” is distributed by United Artists Releasing/MGM and will open in theaters on Nov. 24.
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