What an Italian Thinks of the Italian Accent in House of Gucci
When I saw the House of Gucci’s first trailer, I immediately thought that this movie would divide Italian audiences. But as a language learner, what really intrigued me was the accent used by the main characters, especially Lady Gaga’s Patrizia Reggiani. If I had not known the context, I would have said that she was a Russian tourist trying to sound Italian. This was my first impression after listening to a few lines. Too few to get a complete opinion, though.
Now that I just finished watching it, I can finally express my opinion as an Italian on the accent adopted in the movie. Let’s delve into it.
Linguistic Context of the Movie
Before analyzing each actor’s performance, I would like to write a few words about the linguistic choices made in the movie. An Italian watching the movie in English cannot help but be puzzled by it. This is an American movie, and I can totally understand that the main characters have to speak in English. But why should they try to sound Italian? And more importantly, why should they use Italian expressions like “prego”, “grazie”, “buongiorno”, and “buonasera”?
This is particularly weird considering that some characters are Italian and speak it perfectly during the movie. So, you can listen to the main characters speaking in English with each other but responding in a basic and limited Italian to these secondary, Italian-speaking characters. I wonder what the Italian actors thought during these scenes.
Aside from that, what really surprised me is the word choice. The main characters go from Italian idioms translated word for word into English, exactly what an Italian may accidentally do when speaking in English, to pronouncing expressions like “I need an espresso”. No Italian would call it like that; it is simply called “caffé” (“coffee”).
Italian Accent of Main Actors
Let’s now go into detail about the Italian accent used by each of the leading actors.
Adam Driver’s Maurizio Gucci does not sound Italian. He mispronounces every Italian word, expression, or name. During some scenes, he whispers some Italian lines and I had to read the subtitles to understand what he was saying. His Italian accent does not work, and it feels like he did not even try. There is not much more to say about it.
My final verdict is 3/10.
Al Pacino’s Aldo Gucci sounds like an Italian-American gangster. He delivers his lines as if he were a second-generation American with southern Italian parents. Considering that Aldo Gucci was born and grew up In Tuscany, it is unlikely that he had such an accent and cadence.
Sometimes, it feels like Al Pacino did not even try, especially when it comes to rolling the r. On the other hand, he acts like an Italian and seems to have an Italian soul. He even pronounces the th-sound the way Italians do, so he must have done his homework. At the same time, his character is a proud Tuscan. But the Tuscan dialect is the only Italian language that has the θ sound, so he should be able to pronounce it perfectly.
My final verdict is 5.5/10.
I did not think even for a second that Jeremy Irons’s Rodolfo Gucci sounded Italian. It is obvious that he did not even try, and I can only say that I found him to be one of the most honest and genuine characters in the movie, perhaps because of this. When it comes to his Italian accent, there is nothing positive I can say about it, though.
My final verdict is 1/10.
After seeing the movie, I can confirm that my first impressions were right. Lady Gaga’s Patrizia Reggiani sounds Russian. This is particularly true when she speaks in English. On the other hand, she delivers some of her Italian lines with a perfect accent, and that puzzled me. I wonder how there can be so much difference between the two accents.
She mispronounces the th-sound like Italians do and rolls her r, but not consistently. This means that she keeps going from sounding somewhat Italian, to completely American. This creates a stark contrast, and it is often evident that she is forcing an accent that is not her own. Also, see delivers the h-sound perfectly, something that Italians struggle with.
But the real problem lies in the way she pronounces the vowels, which sound the same way Russians utter them when speaking in Italian. And this leads to catastrophic results, especially considering how many vowels Italian words are composed of.
My final verdict is 4.5/10.
Jared Leto’s Paolo Gucci does sound Italian. The makeup made him so unrecognizable that I wondered if he was an Italian actor more than once. He trills his r perfectly and utters the vowels just like an Italian would. Jared Leto’s work is impressive here, and I particularly appreciated it because his character does not have a stereotypical southern Italian accent.
I was impressed by the way he says “Ma dai!”, which sounds just like Italian would say it, namely “Maddaai”. But what really blew my mind was when he delivered the following line: “Never confuse shit for cioccolato”.
This is the literal translation of the Italian idiom “non confondere cacca e cioccolato”. The writer who came up with this line did an excellent job, and I am glad that it was delivered by Jared Leto. What does not work here is that he explained the meaning of the idiom immediately afterward, which does not make much sense considering that every Italian knows what it means. At the same time, I get that you have to explain it to the audience watching the movie.
Also, I really appreciated that he rolled every single r, even the double r, which represents one of the trickiest sounds to make in Italian. The only critique I can make is that he often over-pronounces some sounds, especially r’s and vowels. I did not know if this is an artistic choice or a mistake, but it perfectly fits his character and I did not find it disrespectful or stereotypical.
My final verdict is 9/10.
When it comes to the Italian accent, House of Gucci does not work. Aside from Jared Leto’s s stunning performance, the other characters sound American or oddly Russian. When I listen to an Italian speaking in English, my brain goes into English mode if they speak with a good accent, or I try to translate each word into Italian when they speak poor English or have a strongly marked Italian accent. Jared Leto fooled me into thinking that his character was played by an Italian actor, but in all other cases, my brain remained in English mode.
My final verdict on House of Gucci’s Italian accent is 4/10.
Almost a disaster. It definitely could have been better.
Thanks for reading! I hope that you found this article interesting. Feel free to leave any questions, comments, or suggestions.