House of Gucci, director Ridley Scott’s much anticipated tale of murder and intrigue in the Gucci family, opens in SA cinemas next week. Starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Jared Leto it promises to be a heavyweight star studded affair that tells the true story of the 1995 assassination of Gucci heir Maurizio Gucci. Oscar buzz for Lady Gaga’s performance as chief suspect, Maurizio’s estranged wife Patrizia, is already at fever pitch.
Spend this weekend getting ready for Gaga and Gucci with these films that explore the darker side of the rich and glamorous from cinema’s long history of fascination with the 1% and what makes them do the sometimes terrible things they never quite seem to get away with.
Watch the trailer for House of Gucci:
The Art house Classic:
Talented Mr Ripley — Rent or buy from Apple TV+
British director Anthony Minghella’s 1999 adaptation of the novel by Patricia Highsmith stands as one of the best featuring a standout creepy lead performance from Matt Damon as a shape-shifting sociopathic lavatory attendant scraping to get by in late 1950s New York who, when he’s mistaken by shipbuilding magnate Henry Greenleaf for a college friend of his playboy son Dickie, doesn’t do anything to correct this false impression. Instead Ripley takes the millionaire up on the offer of a trip to Europe to lure Dickie home. When Tom arrives in Italy he manages to convince Dickie (played with gleeful posh boy charm by Jude Law) that he’s indeed a long lost college pal and worms his way into his life, much to the displeasure of Dickie’s girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow).
What follows is a visually sumptuous evocation of the carefree life of rich Americans in Europe that’s also tinged with hints of a dark obsession on the part of Ripley that will ultimately bring the whole idyllic summer to a terribly monstrous end.
It’s an elegantly realised and mostly faithful adaptation of Highsmith’s book that’s sharply conscious of its key themes. Minghella’s film reminds us how fragile and easily transmutable the facades that we present to the world are and how sex, money and class often lead to destructive desire and resentment.
The Stone Cold Classic:
Foxcatcher — Rent or buy from Apple TV +
Steve Carrell goes full menacing, prosthetic-nose-fitted psychopath in this drama based on the true story of billionaire John du Pont’s fatal obsession with American Olympic wrestlers Mark and David Schultz. Directed by Bennett Miller and starring Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as the Schultz brothers it’s a disturbing morality tale about class in America and the ways in which the rich believe they can do whatever they want without impunity.
Du Pont, an eccentric and unhinged heir of one of America’s wealthiest and most powerful families was also a wrestling fanatic and injected millions into the building of his own Olympic-quality training ground on his family’s sprawling Foxcatcher estate.
Using his infinitely deep pockets Du Pont went after the Schultz brothers and lured them into his web of obsession and idiosyncrasy before everything spectacularly and very publicly imploded.
Anchored by three excellent performances and a quiet, slow-burning ominous atmosphere it’s not always easy to watch because there’s so little to love about any of its characters who are all in their own way deeply narcissistic and emotionally unavailable.
It is however a nasty and powerful reminder of the truth of the saying that money cannot buy happiness and that it’s not a means to buy yourself out of unhappiness either.
The Diamond in the Rough:
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Showmax
Andrew Jarecki’s 2015 six-part docuseries changed the face of the true crime genre forever.
The story of the reclusive New York real-estate heir Robert Durst who was the prime suspect in a number of grisly murders and disappearances beginning with that of his wife Kathie who disappeared in 1982, it’s an unbelievable tale filled with eccentric characters and bizarre twists and turns that make it bingeworthy, compulsive viewing.
Jarecki makes use of extensive archive footage to tell the story of Durst and his family and suitably moody re-enactments that help to add to the mystery but his real clincher comes in the form of a series of interviews with the slippery subject of the investigation himself.
Durst is a devious and difficult customer who is always aware of what he needs to say to escape incrimination until he finally seems to slip up. The result was that he was arrested shortly before the final episode of the series aired and today the unhappy sociopathic millionaire is serving a life sentence for murder.