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'House of Gucci' proves that Lady Gaga can do whatever she wants now

‘House of Gucci’ is a vehicle for Lady Gaga’s iconic performance. And that’s all it needs to be.
Image: Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga attends the U.K. premiere of "House of Gucci" at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on Nov. 9 in London.Samir Hussein / Getty Images

You know something is happening when a single image launches a news cycle.

In March, Lady Gaga posted a photo on her Instagram. In it, she and Adam Driver are posing in front of a beautiful, snowy, mountainous landscape. They’re dressed in luxury aprés-ski wear, the kind of attire one might imagine elegant, old-money Europeans would wear during a trip to the Alps. Gaga is especially stunning, dripping in gold and pearl jewelry and wearing a furry white hat.

Lady Gaga is now a full-blown movie star, a true triple threat.

“Signore e Signora Gucci #HouseOfGucci,” read the caption. This was the first still from Driver and Gaga’s film “House of Gucci,” helmed by director Ridley Scott.

The internet responded in kind. Fans tweeted about how “iconic” the photo was. Vogue ran an entire article titled "17 Thoughts I Had About Lady Gaga And Adam Driver’s Gucci Transformation." It was so instantly iconic that my boyfriend and I were barraged by texts from friends joking that we looked like the in-costume coupling, and we decided we would be dressing up as the still for Halloween — months before we even bothered to look up the plot of the film.

We did not, for example, realize that Lady Gaga’s character, Patrizia Reggiani, was famous precisely because she was convicted of orchestrating a plot to have her husband, Driver’s fashion magnate Maurizio Gucci, murdered by a hitman in 1995.

The photograph also signaled something that had been building for years, which had been clear since “A Star Is Born” came out in 2018: Lady Gaga is now a full-blown movie star, a true triple threat.

She has successfully remade herself with the sort of highbrow Hollywood appeal that is hard to achieve when you are a pop artist who famously wore a meat dress to the 2010 Video Music Awards. (Not to knock the meat dress — it, too, is iconic in its own right.)

“House of Gucci” marks the next step in Gaga’s public evolution; it effectively collapses the space between Lady Gaga the pop star and Lady Gaga the movie star. Gaga does not need a project to be prestigious or universally beloved to validate her ambitions. Hers is a brand built on the very notion of iconic-ness itself. Whether or not “House of Gucci” is a runaway success, it will not change that fact.

The role of Reggiani, an ambitious working-class woman who marries a Gucci scion and ultimately becomes his downfall, has all the drama that marked Gaga’s rise to fame and made her so beloved, and at least some of the acting prestige of “A Star Is Born.” She’s allowed to fully vamp, leaning into the campiness of playing a woman scorned, while mining her own trauma to ground her performance in reality.

“I took the pain I feel from being attacked when I was a young girl, from feeling left behind by people that I love, from feeling trapped that I can’t go out into a world that I love,” Gaga told The Hollywood Reporter. “I took that pain and I gave it to [Reggiani].”

Even if her Italian accent does veer confusingly into Slavic territory, this feels like a role that was made for her.

If you’re surprised, you haven’t been paying attention.

Though reviews of the film have been quite mixed, Gaga has largely been praised for her performance. Vox’s Alissa Wlkinson wrote she “turns every single scene she appears in into a grand, glorious showcase,” describing her embodiment of Reggiani as “Lady Macbeth as diva, darling, and dancing queen.” The New Yorker called her performance “screen-commanding.”

If you’re surprised, you haven’t been paying attention. “A Star Is Born,” which grossed more than $436 million worldwide and received eight Oscar nominations, one of which Gaga won for best original song, marked a turning point for the singer-actor. As Rebecca Keegan put it in a feature for The Hollywood Reporter: “Up to that point, Gaga had appeared in ... roles that capitalized on the flair for drama she demonstrated in her stage persona but none that suggested she could carry a movie. With ‘A Star Is Born’ ... Hollywood realized Gaga was not just a piece of stunt casting.”

The weepy film, and Gaga’s understated performance as the titular birthed star, Ally, pushed even the skeptical to take her seriously. She was, unequivocally, a force — something Gaga’s fans have known since 2008. The woman knows how to put on a show and how to evoke that energy in the people who watch her.

But the Gaga show was never surface-level. She’s always had the talent to back it up. I will never be able to hear “Poker Face” and “Paparazzi” without revisiting memories of wild abandon during college, and I know I’m not the only one. When Lady Gaga is on stage or coming through your speakers or on your screens, she invariably makes you feel something.

That’s exactly what makes it so deliciously satisfying to see her dive headfirst into such an inherently over-the-top role in “House of Gucci.”

“Father, Son and House of Gucci,” indeed. Mother Monster forever.