A class act — how Adam Driver shines in less-than-stellar films

Lady Gaga has done a lot of press for the film “House of Gucci”. There’s been much made of her commitment to the role of Patrizia Reggiani: mastering the accent, staying in character, working to inhabit this spurned wife and fashion icon. She does a laudable job of portraying what could’ve been a character in an Italian soap opera (which in a way, she WAS) by giving her emotional weight. Lady Gaga and Jared Leto have the flashiest roles and have been nominated for a few awards. For my money, it’s Adam Driver who waltzes his way through director Ridley Scott’s film as the tragic hero.

Portraying the man in the crosshairs, the film begins with the end. Maurizio Gucci is biking to his work…and his death. Driver gets less flashy outfits and gives a more restrained performance as the heir to a fashion house. Playful and romantic, he gives up his playboy existence for the love of remarkable, ambitious woman. When he later returns to his playboy ways and spurns Patrizia, he still retains an air of class.

“House of Gucci” is a mess of a film. It seems as if each actor has been given a script for a different film. Lady Gaga is in an Italian soap opera–big emotions, big drama, fabulous clothes. Jared Leto is in a broad commedia dell’arte–crazy costumes, over-acting, full of tears and vapor. Adam Driver seems to be playing an actual human being who has a backstory. He’s not the only victim in the film but he’s the only one who seems to be playing it straight.

Adam Driver crooning with Marion Cotillard, “Annette”

Adam Driver is often the best thing in a production. He’s the actor your eye is drawn to. Not just because he’s the tallest (6′ 2″) in the scene; he embodies the stillness in the sound and fury going on around his characters. In “Annette”, he sings silly songs and dances with a puppet baby. Yet there’s still real emotion when his crass comedian declares his love. He and Marion Cotillard have class. The movie may seem like an experimental high school opera, yet they walk away from Leos Carax‘s film pedigrees intact.

Impressed with Ben Affleck’s performance in “The Tender Bar”, I watched “The Last Duel” on HBOMax. Affleck’s the best thing in the film but again, Adam Driver acquits himself admirably. Perhaps due to the fact that he doesn’t have to wear an awful wig, his performance as a court lackey made me fall for his more noble aspects. In his version of events, he’s witty, knowledgeable and loyal. Only later, is it revealed his life of debauchery, cruelty and rape. Directed by Ridley Scott again, Driver sells the adage that “the madam protests too much”. His squire is used to having his way with women and cannot face or believe the truth.

Adam Driver has had some amazing roles in the last few years, from “Star Wars” to the award-winning “Marriage Story” to these three movies filmed in 2021. He’s always interesting to watch, even if the films he’s chosen to star in aren’t always big box office hits. To see him in a more nuanced performance, check out “Paterson“. Driver gives another subtle but powerful performance as a poet bus driver.

☕️ “House of Gucci”—one Italian espresso (out of 5), “Gucci” starts out great, like an epic love affair, heads into camp and winds up in full-on soap opera. Jared Leto acts like he’s in a different movie. Why did Ridley Scott want to make this w/an American cast anyway? Adam Driver is in top form and Lady Gaga gives us pathos but why torture poor Salma Hayek? A very uneven and overly long film with too many lawyers.

🍷”Annette”—one glass of French wine that tastes of elderberries or some eccentric spice (out of 5) It’s imaginative and has some fun filmmaking ideas, but I found it too avant-garde and tiresome by the end.

🍷1/2 “The Last Duel”—one and a half glasses of French table wine produced on your family land (out of 5) Not as terrible as I’d been lead to believe but the story is not intriguing enough to be told 3 times from 3 perspectives. Thank our lucky stars that women are no longer a husband’s property. I wanted to start the film where it ended. To learn how our heroine became a wealthy aristocrat once her pig-headed husband is killed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s