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Posts Tagged ‘Al Pacino’

Lady Gaga, Adam Driver

“HOUSE OF GUCCI” My rating: C (In theaters)

167 minutes | MPAA rating: R

We’re all familiar with cinematic sagas of backstabbing among the filthy rich. Entire TV series have grown around that idea.

In fact, we’re so accustomed to the wealthy misbehaving that any example of the genre trying to capture our time and attention had best come up with something — an approach, an edge, an attitude — that sets it apart.

This is precisely what Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” fails to do.

This is a multi-character epic of greed and power that is intermittently intriguing but which overall suffers from a bad case of meh

The screenplay by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna (based on Sara Gay Forden’s nonfiction book) lacks a point of view or even an obvious purpose.  The story is based on facts, but the telling is satire- and irony-free, a bland recitation of events with no attempt to analyze or interpret.

In a shorter film this might have been finessed, but “…Gucci” runs for more than 2 1/2 hours…by the halfway point a viewer’s attention span starts to wander as it becomes clear we’re not going anywhere.

And director Scott’s heart clearly isn’t in it.  This effort lacks even his trademark visual pizzazz. 

The film is strongest in its early passages, when we’re introduced to Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), who works as a secretary for her papa’s Milanese trucking company.  Gaga once again establishes her bona fides as a genuine movie star…here she seems to be channelling Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobridgida, a potent mixture of sex and sassiness. 

Out partying  one night Patrizia bumps into a rather shy but charming young man who introduces himself as Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver).

He describes himself as a humble law student, but Patrizia recognizes that this is one of the heirs to the Gucci fashion empire.  She starts stalking Maurizio, plotting an “accidental” meeting.

Is she a gold digger?  Well, Maurizio’s uber-cultured father (Jeremy Irons) certainly thinks so, but the film declines to pass judgment.  Patrizia is in some ways solidly plebeian (she doesn’t like reading) but she’s no shortage of ambition, something that gratifies her to Maurizio’s uncle Aldo (Al Pacino), who runs the Gucci empire from a New York high rise.

Under his new wife’s insistent prodding the laid-back Maurizio is slowly sucked into the firm’s management, undergoing a bit of a personality change in the process.  Power corrupts, don’t cha know?

In fact, Patrizia makes such a pest of herself, meddling in Gucci business, that divorce rears its ugly head. In a plot development that beggars the imagination (but which actually happened), she befriends a TV psychic (Salma Hayek) and together they put together a hit on hubby.

That’s the main plot thread of “House of Gucci,” but it’s only one of many.  

Jared Leto

The film jerks to life every time Jared Leto makes an appearance as Aldo’s son Paolo, a wannabe designer utterly lacking in taste and talent who owns a big chunk of Guggi stock but is considered an idiot by one and all.  

Leto is unrecognizable beneath bald pate, scraggly hair and double chin…his Paolo is like a parody of every hapless loser you’ve ever met.   You’re almost tempted to feel sorry for him, but the guy is so clueless and irritating we practically take pleasure in his humiliations.

(Some smart grad student in psychology is going to do a thesis on why one of the most handsome actors in Hollywood insists in role after role on uglying himself up beneath layers of grotesque makeup and prosthetics.)

There is no shortage of betrayals here.  Patrizia and Maurizio learn that Uncle Aldo has been cheating on his America taxes and turn him in so they can take over the company.  Then they must face a coup engineered by the CEO of Gucci America (Jack Huston).  

While Patrizia stews in divorcee hell, Maurizio cavorts with a thin French friend (Camille Cottin).

Damn, but these rich folk push the envelope.

Truth be told, most of the performances here are just fine.  It’s the storytelling that lets us down, keeping us at arm’s length and ultimately leaving us without any character to care about.

| Robert W. Butler

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Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa; Robert DeNiro as Frank Sheeran

“THE IRISHMAN” My rating: B 

209 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Martin Scorsese’s much-anticipated “The Irishman” is a good movie.

Not a great one.

It’s been described as the filmmaker’s ultimate gangster epic, yet it feels less like a conventional celebration of tough-guy ethos than a slow (3 1/2 hour’s worth), mournful meditation on sins unacknowledged and unforgiven.

In fact, Scorsese seems to have gone out of his way to avoid the sort of eye-catching set pieces (like the long nightclub tracking shot from “GoodFellas”) that marked many of his earlier efforts. “The Irishman” is almost ploddingly straightforward.

Steve Zaillian’s screenplay follows the title character, real-life contract killer Frank Sheehan (Robert DeNiro), from his early days as a truck driver with a taste for theft  to his residency in an old folk’s home.

(Now seems a good time to comment on the much-ballyhooed CG “youthening” of the actors…it’s so good you don’t even think about it. No waxy skin tones or blurry edges — damn near flawless.)

The bulk of the movie, set in the ’50s and ’60s, chronicles Frank’s association with the Teamsters  and his friendship with union president Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), who in a phone call introduces himself to Frank with the statement: “I heard you paint houses.”  That’s code for acting as a hired assassin, a role Frank will perform for Hoffa and others for a quarter century.

The film centers on a long 1975 car trip in which Sheehan and his mentor, crime family boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), and their wives drive from Philadelphia to Detroit, ostensibly to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter.  At various stages in the journey Frank’s memory is jogged to recall past exploits. He doesn’t realize until late in the trip that Russell has another agenda — the assassination of Jimmy Hoffa who, after serving a four-year sentence in federal prison, is now upsetting the apple cart by attempting to reclaim the presidency of the Teamsters Union.

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Jon W***

Jon Wojtowicz, the real “Sonny” from “Dog Day Afternoon”

 

“THE DOG”  My rating: B (Opening Aug. 15 at the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet)

100 minutes |No MPAA rating

One of the iconic images of the 1970s comes from the film “Dog Day Afternoon.” Al Pacino plays a bank robber who paces in the doorway of the building where he’s holding hostages, berating the surrounding cops, demanding pizza, a getaway plane and a sex change operation for his boyfriend.

Pacino played a character named Sonny. The real life Sonny was John Wojtowicz, and “The Dog” is his story.

Filmmakers Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren followed the elderly Wojtowicz over several years (he died in 2006) and their documentary leaves us with as many questions as answers. This was probably inescapable, for Wojtowicz was a raging egoist, a bombastic storyteller, a mixture of admirable traits (when he fell in love, he fell in LOVE), hilarious self-aggrandizement (until it gets wearisome), profane poetry and a sexual appetite that was off the charts.

“I’ve had four wives, 23 girlfriends,” the white haired Wojtowicz boasts.  “They all know each other. I’m like Prudential. I’m the rock.”

The film follows his remarkable life from Brooklyn boyhood to service in Vietnam, his discovery (in basic training) of gay sex, his return home and his marriage to a neighborhood girl.

But before long he was part of the Manhattan homosexual scene in the wake of the Stonewall riots. Wojtowicz became a gay activist — though he admits it was as much to get laid as for his sense of social justice. He met and “married” Ernest Aaron, a transexual, and it was Ernie’s desperate quest for a sex change operation (he had attempted suicide several times) that drove Wojtowicz in August of 1972 to devise a bumbling plan to rob a Chase Manhattan Bank outlet in Brooklyn.

The crime turned into a long standoff that drew huge crowds and unfolded on live television. Wojtowicz put on a show, strutting for the news cameras, hurling insults and handfuls of cash at the cops, playing the big man.

Watching the vintage TV footage, one realizes how accurately Pacino and director Sidney Lumet captured the event.

Wojtowicz  spent seven years in federal prison being beaten and gang raped…though eventually he “married” another inmate.

While in prison, “Dog Day Afternoon” was released. Wojtowicz was pleased by the attention paid his outlandish story: “Nobody would rob a bank to get the money to cut off a guy’s dick in a sex change operation. That’s why they made a movie about it.”

 

 

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