Oct 7 2013
Reviewed by Steve Dool
To say that House of Versace is a bad movie is beside the point. If anyone took on the task of watching a Lifetime Original Movie about the tumultuous lives of Donatella and Gianni Versace and expected a Gandhi-caliber film, that person has clearly never seen 90% of made for TV movies before. Certainly they’ve never seen a Lifetime movie, which has a back catalog of fine filmmaking that a quick Google search informed me also includes Nightmare Nanny, A Nanny’s Revenge and Stalked at 17.
It’s also hard to believe that anyone involved in making House of Versace thought they were making a good movie. This was made clear early on when Enrico Colantoni, almost using a sort-of Italian-ish accent as Gianni Versace, claimed that the dresses of his rival Armani “look like last week’s ciabatta.” Because he’s Italian, you see. Or when Gianni was positively stumped about how to fix a one-sleeved dress until Gina Gershon’s Donatella arrived on the scene in a haze of cigarette smoke and ripped said sleeve right off. Everyone was awestruck by how Donatella knew to remove that erstwhile sleeve, and so impressed that they decided to send it to Princess Diana to wear immediately. Hopefully they Febreezed it first.
Unfortunately, those moments of over the top ridiculousness were not as plentiful as they’d need to be in order to elevate the movie to pure guilty pleasure status, like every other movie Gina Gershon has ever made. It was just kind of bad. And kind of boring. And very embarrassing.
For a movie about a luxury fashion house, the clothes and models looked like something that would be subpar for the Reggio Calabria Opera House, which I learned based on dramatic musical cues is apparently a huge insult within the gilded walls of Atelier Versace. Speaking of the music, it was clear that’s where the producers blew most of the budget, depending on the cost associated with obtaining the rights to the 90’s dance classics that played throughout the film, even as the action moved well into the 2000’s. I’m talking “Groove is in the Heart” pumping loud when we first learn of Donatella’s budding cocaine addiction. I’m talking “Pump Up the Jam.” I’m talking “I’ve Got the Power” twice.
For her part, Gina Gershon really disappears into the role of Donatella. And I mean that literally, as her weird blonde wig obscured her face for most of her scenes. She had some choice dialogue, including a classic “Did I stutter?” and a dramatic “OK” when her husband informed her he was leaving. That wasn’t quite as dramatic as when she was buzzing high on red wine and smashed her glass into a precariously low-hanging chandelier, but it was somewhat more dramatic than when she noted that giving up her heels in rehab was harder than giving up coke. Life lessons abound.
There’s also a weird aunt who seems vaguely molest-y, an older brother who seems like the worst, a super boring son and a man who is constantly touching fabric in the background and has the same haircut as MTV’s Daria. Most of the supporting cast primarily serves to pop in and repeat things like, “Fashion is in our DNA!” and “Gianni is gone!” and “We are family!” with accompanying hand gestures. The most poignant supporting cast member, however, is definitely a magical white butterfly who floats in on a gentle breeze backstage at the first Versace show after Gianni’s death. Apparently only Donatella can see it, Haley Joel Osment-style. Is it the insect ghost of Gianni? Yes, it is. I smell a Golden Globe nomination.
“Finally it’s happened to me,” CeCe Peniston sings on the soundtrack as the movie comes to a close with Donatella emerging victorious from a post-rehab runway show that we’re informed both Elton John and InStyle attended. Finally, it’s happened to me, too, CeCe – and I am so glad it’s over.