Review: ‘Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge,’ starring Diane von Furstenberg

June 7, 2024

by Carla Hay

Diane von Furstenberg in “Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge” (Photo courtesy of Hulu/Disney)

“Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge”

Directed by Trish Dalton and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

Some language in French with subtitles

Culture Representation: The documentary film “Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge” features a predominantly white group of people (with a few black people and Asians) from the fashion and entertainment industries discussing the life and career of fashion designer/mogul Diane von Furstenberg.

Culture Clash: Diane von Furstenberg battled against sexism and antisemitism and became one of the few female owners of a major fashion company in the 1970s, but her complicated personal life has had a lot of chaos and heartbreak.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Diane von Furstenberg fans, “Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching documentaries about the fashion industry, celebrities and feminists who conquered a male-dominated field.

Diane von Furstenberg, Talita von Furstenberg and Morgan Hill in “Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge” (Photo courtesy of Hulu/Disney)

“Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge” is a definitive visual biography about the trailblazing fashion designer/mogul Diane von Furstenberg, who is candid about her personal life and career. Her charisma and unconventionality make this very conventionally formatted documentary shine. Because she’s been open about many aspects of her life over the years (including her 2014 memoir “The Woman I Wanted to a Be”), there isn’t too much revealed about von Furstenberg in this movie that she hasn’t already revealed about herself. However, von Furstenberg’s hindsight gives the documentary a richer perspective of her life, as she is equally comfortable discussing her past and her present, while looking ahead to her future.

Directed by Trish Dalton and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, “Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge” had its world premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Festival. “Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge” is also the name of an installation that went on display in New York City in June 2024. The installation could be considered an extension of the documentary and vice versa,

The documentary begins by showing a 1980s clip from an interview that von Furstenberg did with David Letterman. In the interview, he’s somewhat condescending, as he tries to make it sound like von Furstenberg was a “one-hit wonder,” whose claim to fame was inventing the wrap dress and being previously married to a prince (Egon von Furstenberg). The rest of the the documentary shows that Diane was far from a one-hit wonder but has actually been a master of reinvention and staying relevant in fickle industries. And even though she was married to a prince, her life has been far from being like a fairy tale.

Born to Jewish parents on December 31, 1946, in Brussels, Belgium, her birth name was Diane Simone Michele Halfin. Her mother Liliane, also known as Lily, is discussed a lot in the documentary as Diane’s biggest life mentor, but von Furstenberg barely mentions her father. As a child of Holocaust survivors (Lily survived the notorious Auschwitz death camp), von Furstenberg said the Holocaust wasn’t discussed in her family, but she learned from her mother what would become a lifelong motto about survival: “Fear is not an option.”

In the documentary, von Furstenberg (who is an only child) talks about how her mother was told by doctors that her child wouldn’t live. In a sense, von Furstenberg’s entire life snce birth has been about beating the odds and defying people’s expectations. She says in the documentary that her mother taught her to be fearless and independent. “She wanted to equip me, in case I needed to live the way that she lived.” And that meant growing up fast.

Here parents’ marriage fell apart when Lily left the family to be with another man. Diane, who was a teenager at the time, was sent to live in a boarding school. In the documentary, Diane doesn’t express any bitterness about this family turmoil and says that being sent to boarding school was probably the best thing that could have happened to her during this time. It was at boarding school where Diane (who describes herself as sexually fluid) says she fell in love for the first time with a man and with a woman and had affairs with both sexes.

A recurring theme in the documentary is that Diane is someone who doesn’t like restrictions placed on her, whether these restrictions are traditional gender roles, monogamy or whatever she wants to do with her life. She has gotten pushback and criticism from some people for how she has lived. However, even with her constant battle to retain these personal freedoms, she has a tendency to want to escape or be in denial when life gets too difficult for her, by her own admission.

In the documentary, Diane describes her first husband Egon (a German prince), whom she married in 1969, as a magnetic charmer who swept her off of her feet in a passionate love affair. At the time, it was considered somewhat scandalous for this German prince to marry a middle-class Jewish woman. Diane also describes the antisemitism of Egon’s father, who would refer to Diane’s and Egon’s two children—Alexander (born in 1970) and Tatiana (born in 1971)—as the “little Jews.” Diane says when she was pregnant with Alexander, also known as Alex, she told her unborn child, “We’ll show them.”

Alex and Tatiana are both interviewed in the documentary. They describe their mother as not beng very attentive when they were children, but she taught them to be more independent than most kids their age. Tatiana says that Diane’s style of parenting can ether be considered “neglectful” or “free.” Diane admits that she was a very non-traditional mother whose was busy running a business and having a very active social life where her children were not necessarily her biggest priority, even though her love for them always existed. Lily has the main child caretaker of Alex and Tatiana. Diane also shares painful memories about Lily having a mental breakdown.

In the early 1970s, Diane says she and Egon (who was also openly bisexual) were living in New York City and were fully immersed in a celebrity lifestyle of parties and swinging in their open marriage. Diane describes Egon as being more promiscuous than she was and the reason why they separated in 1972 eventually got divorced in 1983. Egon died of AIDS in 2004, at age 57. In the documentary, the family’s devastation over his death is discussed by Diane, Egon and Tatiana.

Alex says in the documentary that it wasn’t unusual to see famous people spend the night. Diane doesn’t name drop a lot about who her famous lovers were, but she mentions that she slept with Ryan O’Neal and Warren Beatty separately on the same weekend. And she says that Mick Jagger and David Bowie propositioned her to have a threesome with them, but she turned down this offer.

Diane says of the end of her first marriage: “Divorce, for me, was freedom … I became the woman I wanted to be … I was the woman in charge.” Her split from Egon also coincided with the rise of Diane as a designer and a business mogul in the fashion industry during a period of time when it was highly unusual for a woman to be either or both.

The documentary retells the well-known stories behind the wrap dress (which Diane invented in 1974) and Diane’s meteoric rise in the fashion industry with her self-titled fashion brand, also known as DVF. Diane says she initially got the inspiration for the wrap dress from wrap blouses that ballerinas would wear. When Diane saw Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia Nixon wear a DVF wrap blouse over a skirt during the 1973 Watergate scandal, Diane got the idea to make a wrap dress. It became worldwide sensation and was popular because it looked like high fashion but was affordable.

And for someone who considers herself a fiercely independent feminist, a few close friends (such as writer Fran Lebowitz) say in the documentary that there have been periods in Diane’s life when Diane transformed herself to be more compatible with whichever man she was in a serious relationship with at the time. When Diane was married to Egon, she was the jetset and glamorous princess wife that she was expected to be.

Later, her photographer friend Peter Arnell says that when Diane was having problems with her business and her love life in the 1980s, she escaped from her problems by doing a lot of traveling. Her love affair with Italian writer Alain Elkann resulted in Diane dressing differently, by changing her wardrobe from her signature bright prints to more toned-down and conservative clothes that university intellectuals tend to wear. In her current phase, she has been part of a power couple since her love affair with billionaire entertainment mogul Barry Diller, who is interviewed in the documentary and whom Diane describes as her “soul mate.” Diane and Diller (who also identifies as sexually fluid) eloped in 2001, after meeting in the mid-1970s and being in an on-again/off-again romance since the 1980s.

Even though Diane preaches having a fearless attitude, she also expresses some vulnerability when she says that she doesn’t like going back to Brussels. “I feel really sad in Brussels,” she says. “Every time I come back, I feel small again.” She is vague about how she overcame business difficulties. (The closure of DVF stores in 2020 is not mentioned at all in the documentary.) However, she gives credit to good timing that wrap dresses became popular again in the 2000s.

“Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge” has an eclectic mix of people interviewed. They include media mogul Oprah Winfrey, former U.S. first lady/politician Hillary Rodham Clinton, artist Anh Duong, model Karlie Kloss, Diane’s friend Olivier Gelbsman, former British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, makeup artist Gigi Williams, former Interview editor Bob Colacello, fashion designer Christian Louboutin, former DV creative director Nathan Jenden, author Linda Bird Franke, New York Times fashion writer Vanessa Friedman, “Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge” installation curator Nicolas Lor, “Diane von Furstenberg: A Life Unwrapped” author Gioia Diliberto, Nobel Prize winner Nadia Murad, George Washington University international affairs professor Muqaddesa Yourish, spritual guru Deepak Chopra, TV host Seth Meyers, and Diane’s grandchildren Talita von Furstenberg, Tassilo von Furstenberg and Antonia Stenberg.

At an age when most people have retired, Diane says she has no intention of retiring anytime soon. In the documentary Close friends and family members describe her as having more energy than most people who are decades younger than Diane is. Unlike many people in the fashion/beauty industry, Diane also says she’s not afraid of being old.

There’s a scene early on in the movie where Diane climbs into a bathroom sink while she does her own makeup. She declares, “I do not understand why people do not embrace age. You shouldn’t say how old you are. You should say how long you have lived. If you take away wrinkles, you take away the map of your life. I don’t want to erase anything from life.”

in the documentary, Diane also says that her decision to sell her products on QVC, as of 1996, was one of the best business decisions she could’ve made—even though she got a lot of criticism for it by many people at the time who thought this QVC association would ruin the DVF brand. Nowadays, it’s not unusual for a designer with haute couture experience to partner with a low-priced retailer for business ventures. Diane’s ability to be relatable to the “1%” in high society and the rest of the “99%” of society has a lot to do with her longevity and popularity. “Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge” is a reflection of this wide appeal, since it’s a documentary that can be enjoyed for its celebration of the human spirit—regardless of how much or how little viewers care about fashion.

Hulu will premiere “Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge” on June 25, 2024.

2024 Met Gala: Event Photos and Videos

May 6, 2024

The 55th annual Costume Institute Gala, also known as the Met Gala, took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on May 6, 2024. The event’s theme in 2024 was “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.” The Met Gala is an annual fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. This year, the Met Gala was co-chaired by entertainers Jennifer Lopez, Zendaya, Bad Bunny, Chris Hemsworth and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Here are photo and video highlights from the event.

Hari Nef, Paloma Elsesser, Adwoa Aboah, Ann-Sofie Johansson, Stefon Diggs, Quannah Rose Chasinghorse, Victor Glemaud and Awkwafina dressed for the Met Gala in New York City on May 6, 2024. (Photo courtesy of H&M)

 

Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Zac Posen at the 2024 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on May 6, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

 

Review: ‘High & Low – John Galliano,’ starring John Galliano

April 22, 2024

by Carla Hay

John Galliano in “High & Low – John Galliano” (Photo by David Harriman/MUBI)

“High & Low – John Galliano”

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

Some language in French with no subtitles

Culture Representation: The documentary film “High & Low – John Galliano” features a predominantly white group of middle-class and wealthy people (with a few black people and one Asian) who are interviewed about controversial British fashion designer John Galliano, who has worked for fashion brands such as Givenchy, Christian Dior (also known as Dior) and Maison Margiela.

Culture Clash: In 2011, Galliano had a fall from grace after a December 2010 video surfaced of him going on an antisemitic and racist rant, but he has attempted to clean up his reputation since then.

Culture Audience: “High & Low – John Galliano” will appeal primarily to people interested in documentaries about the fashion industry and controversial famous people.

John Galliano in “High & Low – John Galliano” (Photo courtesy of MUBI)

When all is said and done, “High & Low – John Galliano” is really about answering this question: “Does someone who was exposed for being antisemitic and racist deserve to make a career comeback?” This biographical documentary works better as a “where are they now” story than as a convincing argument that disgraced fashion designer John Galliano deserves to make a comeback. The movie has indications that Galliano’s sincerity can be doubted. Even with some celebrities praising Galliano in the movie, what really matters is what Galliano has done to make amends for the harm that he has caused and prove that he is truly reformed.

Directed by Kevin Macdonald, “High & Low — John Galliano” (which has exclusive interviews that were filmed from January 2022 to March 2023) includes the participation of Galliano, who ostensibly agreed to do this documentary so that it could be a showcase or platform for what he clearly wants to be his full redemption. According to the production notes for “High & Low — John Galliano”: “Galliano and Macdonald started talking on Zoom during the first lock-down in the summer of 2020. They first met in person in the spring of 2021 and that led to a ‘trial interview’ in August 2021.” “High & Low — John Galliano” had its world premiere at the 2023 Telluride Film Festival and made the rounds at several other film festivals that year, including the Rome Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival.

Born in the Britsh territory of Gibraltar on November 28, 1960 (as Juan Carlos Antonio Galliano), he was at the top of the fashion industry as artistic director of fashion brand Christian Dior when he was fired in 2011, after a December 2010 video surfaced of Galliano making antisemitic and racist remarks to a stranger at an outdoor cafe in Paris. It wasn’t an isolated incident. When asked about other bigoted comments that that he allgedly made in public, Galliano admits in the documentary that it’s possible he could have made other hate speech comments in his life, but those incidents weren’t recorded. Using drunken blackouts as an excuse, Galliano says he doesn’t remember a lot of horrible things that he’s done that people said that he did.

In the antisemitic rant that was caught on video, Galliano said to a woman whom he thought looked Jewish: “I love Hitler … People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers would all be fucking gassed.” For his antisemitic and racist rant that was caught on video, Galliano made public apologies, partially blaming being drunk at the time that he made these hate speech comments.

Because making antisemitic commentary is illegal in France, Galliano was charged with this crime and went to trial in 2011. He was found guilty and got a sentence of €6,000 in suspended fines. Galliano also talks about voluntarily receiving sensitivity training and education from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). This information is confirmed in the documentary by former ADL director Abraham Foxman, who says he was one of the few ADL leaders who wanted to meet with Galliano.

After getting fired from Dior for this bigotry scandal, Galliano became a pariah in the fashion industry for a few years. And then, he was hired in 2014 to be creative director of Maison Martin Margiela, now known as Maison Margiela. Although Galliano was able to crawl back to the industry for this lower-profile job, it’s obvious from watching the documentary that he wants to be back among the A-list designers. It’s unlikely he will ever return to the career heights that he had when he torpedoed his career.

“High & Low – John Galliano” will give viewers a lot of information about Galliano’s personal life and career, which the documentary tells in chronological order. Galliano admits that he’s a recovering alcoholic who’s been sober for “years.” (Galliano doesn’t get more specific about how long he’s been allegedly sober.)

He also hints at having many other addictions (he admits to abusing cocaine during the height of his career), but alcoholism, plastic surgery and a physical workout craze are the only addictions he fully admits to on camera. Even with these admissions, it’s hard to be convinced that Galliano is truthful in his claims to be clean and sober, when he is sometimes slurring his words and appears glassy-eyed and occasionally unfocused during his interviews in this documentary.

Galliano also apparently never personally reached out to say he was sorry to the people who were the targets of his illegal insults in that notorious December 2010 rant. Galliano claims that he was advised by his attorney at the time not to speak to the victims before the case was resolved. However, the court case has been resolved since 2011. He’s had plenty of time to make these amends, but he hasn’t done that, according to Philippe Virgitti, a dining companion of the woman who was the target of Galliano’s antisemitic and illegal rant in the December 2010 video.

Virgitti, who is interviewed in the documentary, was dining with this woman when Galliano spewed this bigoted hate in that December 2010 incident, so Virgitti saw firsthand what happened. Virgitti says that what wasn’t caught on video was Galliano saying other racist and antisemitic things to Virgitti (who has Asian heritage) and Virgitti’s dining companion. Although Galliano claims that he eventually made personal apologies to his victims by reaching out to them privately, Virgitti and Virgitti’s attorney Jean-Bernard Bosquet-Denis say that claim it isn’t true, and Galliano never made these private amends. Virgitti says the only apologies that he and his female companion got from Galliano were public and impersonal statements, which Virgitti believes are insincere apologies.

To the documentary’s credit, the movie’s very first scene addresses the controversy about Galliano by showing the notorious video. In an interview for the documentary, Galliano says of his antisemitic rant: “It was a disgusting thing, a foul thing that I did. It was just horrific.” Macdonald (who is also one of the documentary’s producers) can be heard off-camera asking, “Can you tell me how you ended up in that place?” Galliano replies, “I’ll tell you everything.” Galliano then pauses to light a cigarette and says, “I’ve got the shakes, so I need a cigarette.”

It’s compelling way to start the documentary, which then goes into telling the story of Galliano’s career rise, fall and attempted comeback. What emerges is a portrait of someone who’s had issues with addiction and anger for years—even before he was famous—but he was enabled by too many people because of his artistic talent, because he had a very charismatic side to his personality, and because he was making tons of money for a lot of people. In the documentary, Galliano says his workload was insane at the height of his career, and he turned to various addictions to cope.

Galliano grew up in a family consisting of his father Juan Galliano (of Italian heritage), who was a plumber; John’s mother Ana “Anita” Guillén (of Spanish heritage); and John’s two sisters. The family moved from Gibraltar to the United Kingdom when John was 6 years old. John’s older sister Rosemarie Husband, one of the people interviewed in the documentary, remembers their childhood this way: “I always had to look after John. He was quite disruptive. He wanted attention all the time.”

John says that he knew from a very early age that he is gay. One of the earliest indications of his interest in fashion was that he used to wear his mother’s makeup and clothes when he was a boy. John had a troubled relationship with his father, whom John describes as “very straight” and physically and emotionally abusive. John says his father could be violent if “I stepped out of line.” John remembers an incident when his father beat him up after John made this offhand comment about a young man he saw on TV: “Oh, he looks gorgeous.”

Just like many LGBTQ people with homophobic family members, John found a family of friends who accepted him and his sexuality. John’s first “found family” was in the fashion and artistic community in London, in the early-to-mid 1980s, when he attended and graduated from St. Martin’s School of Art. It was a life-changing experience for him.

John explains in the documentary: “During the [Margaret] Thatcher years, I wasn’t joining marches and things like that. I was into sketching and drawing. I ended up prepping a portfolio for St. Martin’s School of Art. They took on few people. The competition was really strong, but they gave me a place and a grant. I saw like-minded people. It was like, ‘My God, I’m not the only one.'”

David Harrison, a painter artist who was one of John’s friends at St. Martin’s School of Art, remembers: “He was very shy when I first met him. And I sort of loosened him up a bit. I always felt like I was his big sister.” (John claims that former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren had once wanted Harrison to be the lead singer of the Sex Pistols, but Johnny Rotten, now known as John Lydon, ended up with the gig.)

Harrison says that he influenced John to go from having very suburban, designer-label taste in fashion to wearing vintage clothes. Harrison also talks about the dark side of John as an “out-of-control drunk. You’d have to sort of look after him.”

It was during his years at St. Martin’s School of Art that John says he became obsessed with the 1927 documentary “Napoleon,” directed by director Abel Gance. Napoleon Bonaparte and the 1800s fashion during this French leader’s reign also heavily influenced John’s fashion aesthetic for years. John took the advice of a St. Martin’s School of Art teacher to cut clothes like he draws, which is how John says he learned how to be a fashion designer.

His 1984 graduation fashion show “Les Incroyables” (“The Incredibles”) showed these influences in genderless clothes. The show was a big hit and got John noticed by many influential people in the fashion industry. In the documentary, fashion journalist/editor Hamish Bowles describes “Les Incroyables” as “one of the top five fashion shows I’ve ever seen. It was absolutely astonishing … You thought, ‘Here’s someone who was touched with genius.'”

Suzanne Von Aichinger—a former model who says she was John’s muse for years—makes a comment about John that probably inspired the title of this documentary: “He really had the high/low [sense of fashion]. He really knew how to balance the two.”

Even with some financial rough patches in the early years, high-profile work came fairly quickly for John, who worked as an in-demand independent designer with his own label, which he maintained, even after he was hired as the director of corporate-owned fashion brands. In 1989, he relocated to Paris, where his career soared to new heights. He became the head designer for Givenchy from July 1995 to October 1996, when he was named artistic director for Christian Dior, also known as Dior. Givenchy and Dior are both owned by luxury goods corporation LVMH.

But behind the glitz and glamour of this success, John still had a reputation for being a hellraiser with a nasty temper. Marie-Sophie Wilson, a former model who was one of John’s friends in the 1980s and 1990s, says that when he moved to Paris, she gave him a place to stay with her because he couldn’t afford rent for his own place. “He camped on my settee and destroyed my washing machine,” Wilson remembers.

Wilson comments: “There are definitely two Johns. There is a shy John and there is a quite mad John. He was a bad drunk. He really wants to get wasted until he drops.” Fashion editor Tim Blanks remembers John urinating on people without their consent in a nightclub. “He was just so off it,” Blanks says. “I just thought, ‘Boy, this guy is unhappy.'” Later in the documentary, John admits that even after he became a rich and famous designer, he was permanently banned from some hotels because of the awful things that he did.

Despite all of these warning signs, John continued to thrive in the industry. And it’s easy to see why. The documentary has several people who make excuses for him or won’t comment on his troubling actions that would get most people arrested if they don’t have fame, wealth and connections. Most of the people who have a financial incentive to praise John do nothing but praise John in the documentary.

One of his most vocal supporters is Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of the U.S. edition of Vogue and chief content officer of Condé Nast, who has her own problematic history of self-admitted racism. She says, “If you think of the great designers who really changed the way women dressed or look or how we think about fashion, immediately, you knew what John was doing. You realize he was one of them, so you had to help him.”

Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Amber Valletta are among the past and present supermodels who consider themselves to be John’s fans and say so in the documentary. Adding their commentary are Oscar-winning actresses Charlize Theron and Penélope Cruz, who just stick to flattery about John’s fashion designs. Also interviewed are several of his former business associates. They include Sidney Toledano, CEO of Dior from 1998 to 2018; Katell Le Bourhis, former advisor to LVMH founder/chairman/CEO; and Johann Brun, who describes himself as John’s first financial backer.

Other people interviewed in the documentary are DJ/musician Jeremy Healy, who found brief fame in the early 1980s as a member of the British pop duo Haysi Fantayzee; jewelry designer Vicky Sareg; John Galliano publicist Mesh Chhibber; Vogue editorial executive Edward Enninful; New York Times fashion director Vanessa Friedman; fashion writer Colin McDowell; fashion editor Sally Singer; John’s personal assistant Evelynne Tissier; John’s agent Anne Nelson; Condé Nast chairman Jonathan Newhouse; psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik; addiction special Dr. Phillipe Bates; and John’s friends Paul Frecker and Tricia Ronane.

John’s personal life is described as a lot of co-dependent relationships, although he seems to have found contentment with his longtime love partner Alexis Roche, who is also interviewed in the documentary, but he doesn’t say anything insightful. It’s not surprising because most live-in partners or spouses are not going to say something brutally honest in a documentary that could ruin their relationships. John does not mention the names of any other significant lovers he’s had in his life.

The documentary has stories about Steven Robinson, John’s design assistant who died of a cocaine overdose in 2007, at the age of 38. Robinson (who worked with John for more than 20 years) is described by various people in the documentary as an intensely loyal gatekeeper, cocaine addict, and John’s best friend, who was in love with John, but they never had a romantic relationship. John’s personal assistant Tissier says of the relationship that Robinson had with John: “This co-dependency had some very toxic aspects.”

Parts of the documentary are meant to pull at the heartstrings. There’s a scene where John describes his mixed emotions over the end of his father’s life. John claims that his ailing father, who rarely expressed his approval of John, told John that he loved John before he died. However, John’s sister says in the documentary that she had to beg John to attend the funeral because John was busy with fittings for his next big fashion show. John says he took a private jet to the funeral and flew right back to work as soon as he could.

A “dramatic” part of the documentary is toward the end when John is invited to look at a special Dior archive collection. It’s the first time that he’s been allowed to set foot in this part of Dior headquarters since he was fired in 2011. John is visibly nervous and emotionally touched, but he also expresses pride and wonderment when he looks at the Dior clothing that he designed.

Viewers can look beyond these misty-eyed moments and lavish praise of a celebrity to see the heart of the matter. The measure of someone’s true character isn’t how talented that person is or how much money that person can make but how that person treats others and how that person reacts when caught doing something wrong. By those standards, people who watch “High & Low – John Galliano” can make up their own minds on what type of character he really has and how sincere he is.

MUBI released “High & Low – John Galliano” in select U.S. cinemas on March 8, 2024. MUBI will premiere the movie on April 26, 2024.

Donatella Versace and Dua Lipa team up for La Vacanza collection for women

May 4, 2023

Dua Lipa and Donatella Versace (Photo courtesy of Versace)

The following is a press release from Versace:

The Versace “La Vacanza” fashion show, will take place on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in Cannes, France. The show will feature a women’s collection co-designed by Donatella Versace and Dua Lipa.  The “La Vacanza” collection will be available in store and on-line on Versace.com immediately following the show.  

“I have always been inspired by a collaborative design process. Working with Dua on this collection has been very exciting and I love the dynamic between us. Dua is strong, fearless, and free and her creative vision is exceptional. Summer is a magical time. We will capture this feeling and the colours of that time of the year with a truly special and intimate fashion show in Cannes.” – Donatella Versace, Chief Creative Officer, Versace

“I am absolutely thrilled to have co-designed the women’s “La Vacanza” collection for Versace with Donatella. She and I have formed such a strong bond over the years, and I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received from her and the whole team since the very beginning of my career. For her to give me the honor of co-designing this collection and letting all my summer inspirations go wild has been a dream. I am so very proud of this collection and cannot wait to debut it in Cannes.” – Dua Lipa

https://dam.gettyimages.com/universal/

2023 Met Gala: Event Photos and Videos

May 1, 2023

The 54th annual Costume Institute Gala, also known as the Met Gala, took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on May 1, 2023. The event’s theme in 2023 was “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” so guests were encouraged to dress in fashion inspired by fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, who died in 2019, at the age fo 85. The Met Gala is an annual fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. This year, the Met Gala was co-chaired by actress/screenwriter Michaela Coel, actress Penélope Cruz, tennis star Roger Federer, singer Dua Lipa and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Here are photo and video highlights from the event.

Louis Vuitton appoints Pharrell Williams to men’s creative director

February 14, 2023

Pharrell Williams (Photo by Adam Rose/ABC)

The following is a press release from Louis Vuitton:

Louis Vuitton is delighted to welcome Pharrell Williams as its new Men’s Creative Director, effective immediately. His first collection for Louis Vuitton will be revealed this June during the Men’s Fashion Week in Paris.

Pharrell Williams is a visionary whose creative universes expand from music, to art, and to fashion – establishing himself as a cultural, global icon over the past twenty years. The way in which he breaks boundaries across the various worlds he explores aligns with Louis Vuitton’s status as a Cultural Maison, reinforcing its values of innovation, pioneer spirit and entrepreneurship.

“I am glad to welcome Pharrell back home, after our collaborations in 2004 and 2008 for Louis Vuitton, as our new Men’s Creative Director. His creative vision beyond fashion will undoubtedly lead Louis Vuitton towards a new and very exciting chapter.” declares Pietro Beccari, Louis Vuitton’s Chairman and CEO.

Pharrell Williams Biography

Pharrell Williams is a visionary recording artist, producer, songwriter, philanthropist, fashion designer, and entrepreneur with 10B combined global music streams to date. He has been honored with 13 Grammy Awards, including 2004, 2014, and 2019 Producer of the Year, and ASCAP’s Golden Note Award in 2012. He has received two Academy Award nominations: for his original song “Happy” (from “Despicable Me 2”) and for Best Picture-nominated “Hidden Figures” (2016) as co-producer. Williams also received a Golden Globe nomination for co-scoring the film. In 2019, Williams received an Emmy nomination for his original song “Letter to My Godfather,” for Netflix’s “Black Godfather” about legendary music executive Clarence Avant. In 2020, Williams was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame for his work as The Neptunes.

In 2018, Pharrell narrated Universal’s remake of the classic film “The Grinch,” authored the book “A Fish Doesn’t Know It’s Wet,” and released the Netflix priginal series “Brainchild” (2018) with his producing partner, Mimi Valdés. Other projects include “Dope” (2015), “Roxanne Roxanne” (2017), “Voices of Fire” (2020) and Amazon’s “Harlem” (which has been renewed for a second season_ and Lena Waithe’s “Rollin’” for HBO Max.

In 2019, Pharrell founded YELLOW, a non-profit working to even the odds for all youth through education, helping them realize their potential. In 2020, Williams launched Black Ambition, a non-profit initiative that provides a bridge to success for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs who are launching tech, healthcare, Web 3.0 and consumer products/services start-ups. A longtime advocate against racial injustice, Pharrell was an integral part in talks with Virginia Governor Northam about Juneteenth being a permanent paid state holiday. In April 2019, Williams launched his first SOMETHING IN THE WATER, a multi-day music festival and experience on the beach in his hometown of Virginia Beach. Last summer, Williams brought his SOMETHING IN THE WATER Music festival to Washington D.C. on Juneteenth Weekend (June 17 – 19). This April, SOMETHING IN THE WATER returns to Virginia Beach and will continue its mission spotlighting the community.

Pharrell excels as a fashion designer and entrepreneur with his Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream apparel among other brands. In the fall of 2019, Williams teamed up with David Grutman and opened both Swan and Bar Bevy in Miami’s Design District, and The Goodtime Hotel in 2021. In 2020, Pharrell founded Humanrace™, a product company with a mission to empower all individuals in their pursuit of well being across product and people.

A longtime advocate against racial injustice, Pharrell was an integral part in the talks with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam about Juneteenth being a permanent paid state holiday and continued to make the push for it to become a national holiday.

Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty Show Vol. 4: photos and videos

November 8, 2022

Rihanna in “Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 4” on November 8, 2022 in Simi Valley, California. (Photo by Dennis Leupold for Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 4 presented by Prime Video)

The following is a press release from Prime Video:

Now in its fourth consecutive year, the extraordinary fashion experience continues to challenge tradition and break boundaries. The trailblazing event is raising the bar yet again with a new all-star lineup of models, actors, some of the biggest names in music, and more, debuting the latest Savage X Fenty styles. Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 4 will feature performances by global musical artists including Anitta, Burna Boy, Don Toliver, and Maxwell, and special appearances from Ángela Aguilar, Avani Gregg, Bella Poarch, Cara Delevingne, Damson Idris, Irina Shayk, Joan Smalls, Kornbread, Lara Stone, Lilly Singh, Marsai Martin, Precious Lee, Rickey Thompson, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Simu Liu, Taraji P. Henson, Taylour Paige, Winston Duke, Zach Miko, and many more.

A seductive fashion fever dream, this year’s show blends Emmy award-winning choreography, style, and music with the hypnotic essence of nocturnal nature. Featuring a star-studded cast all wearing the newest Savage X Fenty looks, the show is an un-missable visual feast.

Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 4 will stream exclusively on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide beginning November 9, 2022.

With the release of Vol. 4, the last Savage X Fenty collection will be available to shop in the Amazon Fashion store and at Savage X Fenty on November 9. An homage to self-expression and personal empowerment, Rihanna’s latest collection features disparate textures, unexpected detailing, and unconventional proportions that come together seamlessly to create a boundary-bending Xperience for everyBODY. Offering bra sizes ranging from 30–46 in bands and A–H in cups (up to 46DDD/42H), and underwear, sleepwear, and loungewear ranging from XS–4X/XS–XXXXL. Customers can visit the Amazon Fashion Store and Savage X Fenty for more information.

Rihanna serves as executive producer and creative director of Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 4.

About Savage X Fenty

Savage X Fenty embodies fearlessness, confidence, and inclusivity. With a team assembled from the industry’s elite, the label has disrupted and redefined the marketplace with its accessible price points, extensive assortment of styles made for everyBODY, and unique approach that celebrates individuality. “We want to make people look good and feel good,” explains Rihanna, who approaches Savage X Fenty with the same mentality she does all her projects—to make something new and fresh that everyone can relate to and feel confident in. “We want you to feel sexy and have fun doing it.” From everyday essentials, men’s underwear, and sleepwear, to elevated loungewear and more provocative pieces—Savage X Fenty has something for every mood, every vibe and everyBODY. Offering bra sizes ranging from 30–46 in bands and A–H in cups (up to 46DDD/42H), and underwear, sleepwear and loungewear ranging from XS–4X/XS–XXXXL, Savage X Fenty is available for purchase at www.SavageX.com and its retail stores.  

About Amazon Fashion 
Amazon Fashion, the fashion retail division of Seattle-based Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), is a one-stop destination for head-to-toe style. Find apparel, shoes, accessories, jewelry, watches, handbags, and luggage from a wide range of designer, contemporary, and emerging brands for any occasion, any style and any budget. Amazon Fashion continues to expand its wide selection and create new experiences on behalf of its customers, including Prime exclusive programs like Prime Try Before You Buy, allowing you to try before you buy, and Personal Shopper by Prime Try Before You Buy, a service that provides style inspiration and curated recommendations. Amazon Fashion also introduced The Drop, an innovative shopping experience that gives customers access to limited-edition street-style collections designed by fashion influencers around the world. In 2020, Amazon Fashion unveiled Luxury Stores, a destination that brings established and emerging luxury fashion and beauty brands directly to U.S. customers. Amazon Fashion aims to reinvent shopping for fashion and uses technology to serve customers with products and brands that are relevant to them. For more information, please visit www.amazon.com/fashion.

About Prime Video

Prime Video offers customers a vast collection of movies, series, and sports—all available to watch on hundreds of compatible devices.

  • Included with Prime Video: Watch movies, series, and sports, including Thursday Night Football. Enjoy series and films including Emmy winner The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Emmy-nominated satirical superhero drama The Boys, and the smash hits Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, Harlem, Reacher, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, The Tender Bar, Being the Ricardos, The Tomorrow War, and Coming 2 America. Prime members also get access to licensed content. 
  • Prime Video Channels: Prime members can add channels like discovery+, Paramount+, BET+, EPIX, Noggin, NBA League Pass, MLB.TV, STARZ, and SHOWTIME—no extra apps to download, and no cable required. Only pay for the ones you want, and cancel anytime.  View the full list of channels available at amazon.com/channels.
  • Rent or Buy: Enjoy new-release movies to rent or buy, entire seasons of current TV shows available to buy, and special deals just for Prime members.
  • Instant access: Watch at home or on the go with your choice of hundreds of compatible devices. Stream from the web or using the Prime Video app on your smartphone, tablet, set-top box, game console, or select smart TV. 
  • Enhanced experiences: Make the most of every viewing with 4K Ultra HD- and High Dynamic Range (HDR)-compatible content. Go behind the scenes of your favorite movies and TV shows with exclusive X-Ray access, powered by IMDb. Save it for later with select mobile downloads for offline viewing.

Prime Video is just one of many shopping, savings, and entertainment benefits included with a Prime membership, along with fast, free shipping on millions of Prime-eligible items at Amazon.com, ultrafast grocery delivery and pickup, unlimited photo storage, exclusive deals and discounts, prescription savings, and access to ad-free music, books, and games. To sign up or start a 30-day free trial of Prime, visit: amazon.com/prime


Review: ‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,’ starring Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Alba Baptista, Lucas Bravo, Ellen Thomas and Jason Isaacs

July 11, 2022

by Carla Hay

Pictured in front: Lambert Wilson, Lesley Manville, Guilaine Londez, Dorottya Ilosvai and Alba Baptista in “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” (Photo by Dávid Lukács/Focus Features)

“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris”

Directed by Anthony Fabian

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1957, in London and Paris, the comedy/drama film “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with a few black people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A widowed housekeeper in London goes to Paris, where she wants to fulfill her dream of buying a haute couture Dior gown, but she experiences obstacles and bigotry from snobs who think she isn’t worthy because of her working-class background.

Culture Audience: “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of star Lesley Manville and the book on which the movie is based, as well as to people who are interested in 1950s high fashion history and stories about working-class people navigating in upper-class society.

Isabelle Huppert and Roxane Duran in “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” (Photo by Dávid Lukács/Focus Features)

Despite a tendency to be cloying and cliché, the comedy/drama “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” has exuberant charm that’s hard to resist. Lesley Manville shines in this fairytale-like story about a woman who believes it’s never too late to chase a dream. On the surface, her dream is to buy a haute couture Dior gown, but the gown represents something much bigger to her: an ability to go outside her comfort zone to get what she wants in the pursuit of happiness.

Directed by Anthony Fabian, “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is based on Paul Gallico’s 1958 novel “Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris.” The novel was also made into a 1992 TV-movie of the same name, starring Angela Lansbury in the title role. In the “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” movie directed by Fabian, the title character is played by Manville. Fabian co-wrote the movie’s adapted screenplay with Carroll Cartwright, Olivia Hetreed and Keith Thompson.

“In Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,” it’s 1957, and Mrs. Harris is Ada Harris, a widowed housekeeper who’s in her 50s and who lives in London. (“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” was filmed in London and Paris—the two cities where the story takes place—but the movie was also filmed in Budapest to simulate Paris in the 1950s.) Ada dreams of having a more glamorous life. Ada’s often cheerful demeanor often hides her sadness over not knowing what happened to her husband Eddie, a military man who went missing in action during World War II in 1944.

Because Eddie hasn’t contacted her for all of these years, he’s presumed dead, but Ada can’t bring herself to face this probability. Ada, who lives alone and has no children, has not had a special man in her life since Eddie disappeared. She has long since given up on finding love because she thinks because of her age, occupation and physical appearance, she’s not very desirable.

“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” spends a little too much time in the first third of the movie showing Ada stuck in her drab routine life in London. There are repetitive scenes of her going to a bridge at night, where she talks out loud to her long-lost husband Eddie. Viewers of “Mrs. Harris Go to Paris” will have to have some patience before the movie gets to what the movie’s title is all about.

Ada’s best friend is Vi Butterfield (played by Ellen Thomas), a Caribbean immigrant who is around the same age as Ada. Vi (who also lives alone and has no children) is as confident as Ada is insecure. When Ada and Vi go out together at social clubs, Vi often has to give Ada pep talks to help boost Ada’s self-esteem. When they go out to these clubs, Ada is more likely to play cards at a table than to mingle and dance.

It’s at this nightclub, when Ada and Vi are sitting together at a table, where Ada gets the courage to open a package from the U.K. military that she has been dreading to open in front of Vi. Inside the package are a telegram and some of her husband Eddie’s personal possessions, including what appears to be a university ring.

Ada reads the telegram out loud to Vi. The telegram confirms that Eddie is dead. He was killed in action near Warsaw, Poland, on March 2, 1944. Ada is saddened but not too surprised. After getting this news, she goes to the bridge again and stares mournfully at Eddie’s ring, as if she’s trying get closure over the reality that Eddie won’t be coming back.

Someone whom Ada and Vi see often is their mutual friend Archie (played by Jason Isaacs), a middle-aged local bookie whose social manners are a little rough around the edges. Archie is a bachelor who thinks of himself as a seductive ladies’ man. Whenever, Ada and Vi see Archie at a nightclub, he always seems to have a different woman as his date.

During one scene in the movie, Archie has brought his two dogs Spring and Summer to the nightclub where Ada and Vi frequently go. Archie asks Ada and Vi to look after the two dogs while he goes on the dance floor with his date. Ada sighs and says to Vi about how the men at this club don’t see them as attractive enough: “We’re invisible women.” Vi’s sassy response is: “Speak for yourself! They see me coming!”

Two of the women who are Ada’s regular clients are very different from each other. Pamela Penrose (played by Rose Williams) is a 23-year-old aspiring actress who looks like a cross between Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe. Pamela is constantly worried about auditions and whether or not she will ever make it big as a movie actress, which is her life goal. Even though Pamela rents an apartment that she can barely afford, she pays Ada on time and appreciates Ada’s cheerful kindness.

The same can’t be said for Lady Dant (played by Anna Chancellor), a middle-aged socialite who spends lavishly but who has come up with many excuses not to pay Ada for the past several weeks. The latest excuse is that Lady Dant has to pay for her daughter’s wedding, which Lady Dant claims is financially draining. When Ada tactfully and politely asks Lady Dant when she can be paid the money that’s owed to Ada, Lady Dant is haughtily dismissive and scolds Ada to be more patient and understanding. Lady Dant also tells Ada that her work hours will be reduced, effective immediately.

Christian McKay is under-used in a small role as Giles Newcombe, one of Ada’s housecleaning clients. A running gag in the movie is that Ada often passes by Mr. Newcombe on a flight of stairs as Ada is arriving and he is leaving the building with a woman who looks young enough to be his daughter, whom he always introduces as his “niece.” The implication is that Mr. Newcombe is married, these young women are really his mistresses, and they have their trysts at the apartment he has in this building.

Ada and Mr. Newcome always greet each other in a friendly manner, with Ada seeming to know that Mr. Newcombe isn’t the “uncle” of these women. Ada is discreet and plays along with the charade though, because Mr. Newcombe is always kind to her. Ada doesn’t judge whatever Mr. Newcombe’s extramarital activities might be because she doesn’t know all the details of his marriage. It’s also this movie’s way of showing that Ada isn’t a nosy gossip.

One day, Ada is doing some housecleaning in Lady Dant’s home, when she sees a stunning floral print sequined dress displayed on a bed. Ada is enchanted by this dress and can’t resist picking up the dress and holding it up to herself while she looks in a mirror. Lady Dant catches Ada admiring the dress, but Lady Dant doesn’t seem to mind.

Lady Dant brags to Ada that the gown is haute couture Dior and that she paid £500 for the dress during a recent trip to Paris. Lady Dant orders Ada not to tell Lady Dant’s husband about this purchase because he will think that she overpaid. As soon as Ada hears about how and where Lady Dant got the dress, it sparks an a near-obsession for Ada to do the same thing.

Ada begins saving her money for a trip to Paris. She also starts a small business on the side called Invisible Mending, where she does seamstress work and other sewing jobs. However, Ada gets a temporary setback when she places a losing £100 bet at a dog-racing track where Archie works.

But then, in an “only in a movie” sequence of events, three things happen literally within minutes of each other that change her fortunes: (1) Ada gets a visit from a military official telling her that the military owes her back payments for being a war widow; (2) Ada gets reward money for returning a lost diamond pin; and (3) Archie shows up at her home to tell her that he actually placed her bet on the racing dog that won, not the losing dog she wanted to bet money on for the race.

And so, with enough money to travel and buy her dream Dior haute couture gown, Mrs. Harris goes to Paris. At the train station in Paris, she meets three homeless winos, and one of them is kind enough to show here where the House of Dior is. Ada notices that there’s a lot of garbage on the streets of Paris, so the homeless man tells her that it’s because garbage collectors are currently on strike. This worker strike is used as a few plot developments later in the movie.

Outside the House of Dior, a model who’s running late for a fashion show, stumbles out of car and trips in front of the entrance. Her name is Natasha (played by Alba Baptista), and she accidentally drops her purse without noticing. Ada picks up the purse and goes inside the building to return it to Natasha, who is grateful.

But those pleasantries are about to end when the pompous House of Dior director Claudine Colbert (played by Isabelle Huppert) notices that Ada is treating the House of Dior like a regular retail store, where people can just walk right in and buy what they want if they have the money for it. Madame Colbert snootily tells Ada that Dior’s haute couture customers have invitation-only access.

Ada most definitely does not have an invitation. Ada gets upset and hastily explains to Madame Colbert that she’s a housekeeper from London who saved up all of her money for this trip and she won’t leave without buying a Dior haute couture gown. When Ada takes out the wads of cash that she has with her, Madame Colbert is even more disgusted by what she sees as crassness from Ada.

However, a society gentleman named Marquis de Chassagne (played by Lambert Wilson), who has been invited to Dior’s upcoming haute couture collection show, notices Ada’s plight and generously tells Ada that she can be his guest at the show. Madame Colbert is miffed, but there’s nothing she can do about it. Unbeknownst to the general public, Dior has secretly been having financial problems, so Madame Colbert tells Dior accountant André Fauvel (played by Lucas Bravo), who has been observing Madame Colbert’s attempted shunning of Ada, that at least they might get a sale out of Ada being there.

Another person who’s annoyed that a “common” housekeeper is attending the show is a spiteful socialite named Madame Avallon (played by Guilaine Londez), who is attending the show with her pouty young adult daughter Mathilde Avallon (played by Dorottya Ilosvai). Madame Avallon gets even more irritated when she sees that Ada will be sitting next to her at the show. And guess who wants the same gown as Ada?

Ada is dazzled by the runway show, but two gowns in particular get her the most excited. Her first choice is a red stunner called Temptation. Ada also literally gasps when she sees an emerald green gown called Eden. Madame Colbert makes sure that Madame Avallon gets the Temptation gown. Oscar-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan did top-notch, award-worthy costume for “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris.”

As a consolation for not getting the Temptation gown, Ada is told that she can be fitted for the Eden gown. However, these fittings would require Ada to be in Paris for several more days. Ada can’t afford to stay in Paris for longer than she had planned, As a show of generous support, André invites Ada to stay for free at the house of his sister, who is away on a trip. Ada eagerly accepts this offer.

A meticulous Dior atelier employee named Monsieur Carré (played by Bertrand Poncet) oversees the fittings for Ada. Predictably, he is sometimes irritated by Ada’s ignorance of haute couture traditions and customs. Fashion icon Christian Dior (played by Philippe Bertin) makes a few brief appearances, as this movie depicts the last year of Dior’s life. (On October 24, 1957, Dior died of a heart attack at the age of 52.) As expected, Ada is star-struck to be in the presence of Dior.

House of Dior’s seamstresses, including seamstress director Marguerite (played by Roxane Duran), are charmed by Ada’s working-class pluckiness in the face of upper-class elitism, so they are rooting for her behind the scenes. While Ada is starting to befriend Isabel and André, she notices that André has romantic feelings for Isabel. And you know what that means: Ada is going to try to play matchmaker for André and Isabel. Meanwhile, Marquis de Chassagne has taken a liking to Ada and asks her out on a date. Could this be the beginning of a romance for him and Ada?

“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” often goes down a very formulaic route, but it’s always watchable, due in large part to the talented cast members, led by Manville. Huppert plays her “villain” role to the hilt, but Madame Colbert shows some vulnerability and warmth later in the movie. Not everything in the movie is predictable, but there’s enough familiarity in how this story is told that “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is like having comfort food with a longtime friend.

Focus Features will release “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” in U.S. cinemas on July 15, 2022.

2022 Met Gala: Event Photos and Videos

May 2, 2022

The 53rd annual Costume Institute Gala, also known as the Met Gala, took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on May 2, 2022. The event’s theme in 2022 was “Gilded Glamour and White Tie.” The Met Gala is an annual fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. This year, the Met Gala was co-chaired by actress Blake Lively, actor Ryan Reynolds, actress Regina King and multitalented entertainer Lin-Manuel Miranda. Honorary chairs for the event were fashion designer Tom Ford, businessman Adam Mosseri, and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Here are photo and video highlights from the event.

Review: ‘House of Gucci,’ starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino

November 22, 2021

by Carla Hay

Jared Leto, Florence Andrews, Adam Driver, Lady Gaga and Al Pacino in “House of Gucci” (Photo courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

“House of Gucci”

Directed by Ridley Scott

Culture Representation: Taking place from 1978 to 1997, mostly in Italy and New York City, the dramatic film “House of Gucci” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one Latina and a few Asians) representing the middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: After middle-class Patrizia Reggiani marries into the wealthy Gucci family, family members start to battle over the Gucci empire of luxury goods, resulting in one of the family members getting murdered. 

Culture Audience: “House of Gucci” will appeal primarily to fans of the movie’s star-studded cast, the Gucci brand and tawdry true crime movies.

Jeremy Irons in “House of Gucci” (Photo courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

Just like a fake Gucci item, “House of Gucci” is a tacky sham that quickly falls apart. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a high-quality movie, just because of the celebrity names and Oscar pedigrees of the movie’s headlining stars and director. The movie looks good, when it comes to production design, costume design, makeup and hairstyling. But the screenplay is atrocious, the acting is uneven, and director Ridley Scott helmed “House of Gucci” like it’s an idiotic melodrama made for mediocre television, but with a much higher budget than most TV-movies will ever have. (“House of Gucci” even has some laughably bad freeze-frame shots as lazy ways of putting emphasis on a particular emotion.)

It’s all the more reason for viewers to be disappointed that several Oscar winners and Oscar nominees have stepped into this “smoke and mirrors” cesspool of a movie. We all know that the fashion industry is all about image and how someone looks on the outside. That doesn’t mean that a movie about the Gucci empire’s biggest scandal needs to be shallow and superficial too.

The weakest link in “House of Gucci” is the screenplay, written by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna. They adapted the screenplay from Sara Gay Forden’s 2000 book “The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed.” The “House of Gucci” movie is slipshod in certain details, by getting some basic facts wrong about this notorious murder case. And many parts of this movie are surprisingly dull. Don’t expect there to be any riveting scenes of a murder trial in “House of Gucci.” There aren’t any. There’s a poorly written, anti-climactic courtroom scene that’s rushed into the movie.

The Gucci murder case involved a complex group of real-life people, who are mostly reduced to caricatures in the movie. However, a few of the “House of Gucci” cast members make the film watchable because of their performances: Lady Gaga, Jeremy Irons and Jared Leto. They stand out for completely different reasons.

Lady Gaga is compelling to watch as the scheming Patrizia Reggiani, who was at the center of the Gucci scandal because Reggiani was convicted of masterminding a murder plot. The details of the Gucci murder case are well-documented, but in case anyone reading this review doesn’t know anything about the case before seeing the movie, this review won’t reveal who was murdered. (Although it’s pretty obvious, when you consider who would have to die for Reggiani to inherit a large share of the Gucci fortune.)

Lady Gaga’s performance as Patrizia Reggiani takes a deep dive into campiness, occasionally comes up for air in earnestness, and sometimes lounges around in limpness. Overall, Lady Gaga has the type of on-screen magnetism that even when Patrizia is doing awful things, it’s with the type of villainous charisma where you know this character is capable of convincing some people that she did very bad things for very good reasons.

A campy performance isn’t necessarily a problem if the rest of the actors are on the same wavelength. Unfortunately, “House of Gucci” director Scott failed to bring a cohesive tone to this movie. Other “House of Gucci” actors give performances that are not campy at all but come across as if they truly believe this is a serious, artsy drama worthy of the highest accolades in the movie industry in every top-level category.

That’s the kind of performance that Adam Driver gives in “House of Gucci,” where he portrays Patrizia’s beleagured husband Maurizio Gucci. Maurizio met Patrizia when he was a law student and had no intention of joining the family business. Driver’s portrayal of Maurizio has the type of personality transformation that actors usually relish.

Maurizio goes from being mild-mannered and easily manipulated when he meets Patrizia while he was in law school to becoming a ruthless and recklessly spending businessman who casts Patrizia aside when he decides to move in with his mistress Paola Franchi (played by Camille Cottin) and divorce Patrizia. Their divorce became final in 1994.

“House of Gucci” makes it look like Maurizio abandoned not only Patrizia but essentially neglected their daughter Alessandra after the divorce. The three actresses who portray Alessandra in “House of Gucci” are Nicole Bani Sarkute (Alessandra at 3 years old); Mia McGovern Zaini (Alessandra at 9 years old); and Clelia Rossi Marcelli (teenage Alessandra).

In reality, Patrizia and Maurizio had two children together: daughters Alessandra (born in 1976) and Allegra, born in 1981. The erasure of Allegra from the movie is just one of the many details that “House of Gucci” gets wrong. The movie also changes the timeline of when Patrizia and Maurizio met and got married. In the beginning of the movie, Patrizia meets Maurizio in 1978. In real life, Patrizia and Maurizio met in 1970 and got married in 1972.

In the “House of Gucci” movie version of Patrizia’s life in 1978, she was working as an office manager for her stepfather’s truck transportation business in Milan, Italy. Patrizia and Maurizio meet at a nightclub party of one of his friends. Maurizio is standing behind the bar, and Patrizia mistakes him for the bartender, so she asks him to fix her a drink. Maurizio thinks that she’s confident and sexy. He tells her that she reminds him of Elizabeth Taylor.

Patrizia seems much more interested in Maurizio when he mentions that his last name is Gucci. Patrizia asks Maurizio if he wants to dance. He says no. The scene then cuts to Patrizia and Maurizio dancing together on the dance floor. Patrizia’s persuasive personality sets the tone for much of their relationship.

It seems like the “House of Gucci” filmmakers decided to change this couple’s courtship to take place in the late 1970s solely for the purpose of having disco music in the movie’s scenes that depict the early years of their relationship. After all, Lady Gaga looks better twirling or slow dancing on a 1978 dance floor where there’s a disco ball and Studio 54-type of partiers, instead of a scene at a 1970 party that would probably have to be staged with a bunch of rich-looking hippies.

Therefore, the “House of Gucci” soundtrack serves up its share of disco music, such as Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and Donna Summer’s “On the Radio.” Later, when the movie’s timeline goes into the 1980s, the soundtrack features songs such as the Eurythmics hits “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and “Here Comes the Rain Again.” The soundtrack songs often blare in “House of Gucci” in music-video-styled sequences that further cheapen the look of the movie.

The first sign that Patrizia is willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants is when she stalks Maurizio on campus at his law school. She follows him into a library and pretends to “coincidentally” run into him again. This scene is like something right out of a Lifetime movie. Maurizio has no idea that he’s being targeted, so he goes along with Patrizia’s seduction and is eventually convinced that their relationship is true love.

Irons gives an understated and believable performance as Rodolfo Gucci, Maurizio’s widower father, who is the only Gucci family member who holds on to his dignity in this movie. Rodolfo is immediately suspicious of Patrizia and her intentions for his only child. Rodolfo doesn’t come right out and use the words “gold digger” when he warns Maurizio not to marry Patrizia, but Rodolfo expresses his concerns that Patrizia is not a woman of substance and that she seems to be latching on to Maurizio because of the Gucci family fortune.

Even though Rodolfo vehemently disapproves of Patrizia, it turns out that Rodolfo and Patrizia actually agree on something: They both think that Maurizio should go into the Gucci family business. However, Maurizio’s refusal to follow his father’s wishes leads to him being estranged from Rodolfo for a while.

Maurizio is kicked out of the family home and cut off from his family’s financial support. With nowhere else to go, Maurizio moves in with Patrizia and her parents. Maurizio gets a job working for Patrizia’s stepfather Fernando (played by Vincent Riotta), who’s depicted in the movie as someone who engages in shady business practices.

To put an emphasis on how much Maurizio is estranged from his former life, when Patrizia and Maurizio get married in a church, the movie makes a point of showing that the pews on the bride’s side of the aisle are filled with her family members and friends, while the pews on the groom’s side of the aisle are almost empty. George Michael’s 1987 song “Faith” is played in the movie’s soundtrack after Patrizia and Maurizio exchange vows and walk happily out of the church. This soundtrack choice is an example of more of the movie’s carelessness with details, because the wedding took place years before “Faith” was released and before Michael was even a pop star.

Meanwhile, Rodolfo’s older brother Aldo Gucci (played by Al Pacino, hamming it up in the type of moody roles he’s been doing recently) doesn’t trust Aldo’s dimwitted son Paolo (played by Leto) to be in charge of any part of the family business. Aldo reaches out to Maurizio to come back to the family fold, but Maurizio still hesitates. Patrizia eventually joins forces with Aldo to persuade Maurizio to reconcile with his family and become part of the Gucci business empire. Maurizio eventually agrees, because at this point in his life, he still wants to please Patrizia. For a while, Patrizia and Maurizio made their home base in New York City during Maurizio’s rise in the Gucci business.

More scheming and manipulations ensue, exactly like how you expect them to play out in a movie that is plagued with clumsy clichés. Patrizia and Maurizio are not shown having any meaningful conversations that are not about his family, money or business. In other words, the movie falls short of convincing viewers that Maurizio and Patrizia had a deep emotional love that would make him blind to her gold-digging ways.

Maurizio and Patrizia have a passionate sex life in the beginning of their relationship, so the movie implies that lust, not love, was what really brought this couple together. The sex scenes in “House of Gucci” aren’t very sexy because they look more like parodies of soap-opera-styled sex. Items on tables are shoved aside and crash on the floor to make room on the table for whatever sex act occurs. Any vigorous thrusting doesn’t look erotic but looks more like someone having a robotic workout routine at a gym. And the orgasms sound very fake.

It’s not much of a surprise that “House of Gucci” is a very “straight male gaze” movie where only women’s nude private parts are shown, not men’s nude private parts. And speaking of people in “House of Gucci” in various states of undress, this movie has a semi-obsession with Patrizia being seen in bathtubs or saunas. Apparently, the filmmakers want viewers to think that life is supposed to be more luxurious if you take baths instead of showers.

The supporting characters in “House of Gucci” are either over-the-top ridiculous (Salma Hayek as Giuseppina “Pina” Auriemma, a self-described psychic who befriends Patrizia), or bland as bland as can be (Jack Huston as Gucci financial advisor Domenico De Sole; Reeve Carney as fashion designer Tom Ford) with no intriguing personalities. Pina is a stereotypical con artist who gives vague predictions to Patrizia (“I see a big fortune coming your way”) and mystical-sounding advice, such as telling Patrizia that Patrizia should wear more red for “protection” and more green for “cleansing.”

The fashion industry is a mere backdrop to the betrayals and lies that usually originate from Patrizia and spread like a virus to other members of the Gucci family. For example, “House of Gucci” wastes an opportunity to give a fascinating insider’s look at the Gucci empire. Instead, the movie gives trite portrayals of the massive reinvention that the Gucci brand underwent from the 1970s to the 1990s. The movie serves up a fast-food version of what happened on the business side of the Gucci story.

“House of Gucci” unrealistically makes it look like it was only Patrizia who had the business sense to tell the family in the 1980s that it was devaluing the Gucci name by licensing the brand to cheap-quality merchandise, and that they needed to go back to Gucci being synonymous with luxury. The Gucci brand was then repositioned as “hip/trendy” (not old-fashioned) luxury. For all of her supposed business skills, Patrizia isn’t actually showing doing any real work as a so-called Gucci powerhouse. According to this movie, all she seems to be good at doing is telling people what to do.

The “House of Gucci” role of fashion designer Ford, a native of Texas who is credited with helping further reinvent the Gucci brand in the 1990s, is literally a walk-on role: The most memorable things that he does in the movie is give the traditional end-of-show designer stroll on a runway after showing a collection, and when Ford reads a newspaper article that praises him, he walks out of the room to say that he can’t wait to call his mother.

At no point in the movie is anyone in the Gucci empire shown having a strong relationship with Ford, even though he was a driving force at Gucci, where he worked from 1990 to 2004, with most of those years spent as Gucci’s creative director. There are some hints that De Sole had his own agendas and ambitions, but the character is written in a completely boring and hollow way. Unless you’re a fashion aficionado who knows about De Sole and his further ascent in the Gucci empire, you might have a hard time remembering his name after watching this movie.

“House of Gucci” is also problematic in how it portrays women, because the three female characters with the most prominent speaking roles are either villains (Patrizia and Pina) or a mistress (Paola). Vogue magazine editorial executive Anna Wintour (played by Catherine Walker), actress Sophia Loren (played by Mãdãlina Ghenea) and Paolo’s wife Jenny Gucci (played by Florence Andrews) have meaningless cameos in “House of Gucci.” Even back in the 1970s to 1990s, when this movie takes place, women were so much more important in the fashion industry than what “House of Gucci” makes it look like.

Out of all the portrayals of the Gucci men in “House of Gucci,” Leto’s performance as Paolo is the flashiest one. Much of the performance’s standout qualities have to do with the top-notch prosthetics that Leto wears to make him look like a completely different person who is heavier and older than Leto’s real physical appearance. However, Leto does show some actor panache by having an amusing Italian accent, and he plays Paolo’s buffoon role to the hilt, bringing some intentional comedic moments.

Leto’s performance is only marred by some silly-looking scenes, such as when Paolo does an awkward dance of jubilation with Patrizia when she deceives aspiring fashion designer Paolo into thinking that his horrendous fashions are fabulous and worthy of being part of the Gucci brand. It’s the type of scene that looks like something Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd would’ve rejected for their Two Wild and Crazy Guys act on “Saturday Night Live.” Paolo’s words and actions get more cartoonish as the movie goes along. A low point is when Paolo urinates on a Gucci scarf in a fit of anger.

Unfortunately, the best performance efforts by the “House of Gucci” cast members can’t overcome the very cringeworthy screenplay that ruins this movie. In one scene, when Patrizia and Maurizio have an argument, she chokes up with tears and says: “I had no idea I married a monster.” He replies coldly, “You didn’t. You married a Gucci.” In another scene, Pina snarls at someone, “Don’t fuck this up, ’cause I’ll put a spell on you!” In another scene, Paolo says, “Never confuse shit with chocolate. They may look the same, but they’re very different. Trust me, I know!”

The Paolo character might want to warn people not to confuse defecation with chocolate, but viewers should be warned not to confuse “House of Gucci” with being a superb film. For a movie that’s supposed to be about a haute couture/luxury fashion brand, it wallows in the muck of cheap gimmicks, sloppy screenwriting and a lack of self-awareness about how horrendous the worst parts are. The end result is a tawdry mess. And you can’t erase the stink from that.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures will release “House of Gucci” in U.S. cinemas on November 24, 2021. “House of Gucci” is set for release on digital and VOD on February 1, 2022. The movie’s release date on Blu-ray and DVD is on February 22, 2022.

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