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Lady Gucci: The Story of Patrizia Reggiani, Discovery+’s latest true-crime documentary (premiering March 21), is not a whodunit. In revisiting the March 27, 1995, murder of Maurizio Gucci, the head of the famed Italian fashion brand, director Jovica Nonkovic’s film makes it 100 percent clear that the mastermind behind this assassination was Gucci’s wife Patrizia Reggiani. How so? It interviews Reggiani herself, who candidly admits on camera that she had gone around Milan asking, “Anybody here brave enough to kill my husband?,” and that when cops finally arrived on her doorstep, her reaction was, “I didn’t think they’d catch me.”
Reggiani’s participation is the primary draw of the streaming service’s non-fiction feature, whose arrival comes on the heels of Lady Gaga and Adam Driver’s recent announcement that they’re collaborating on the Ridley Scott drama House of Gucci about Reggiani’s story. Certainly, there’s plenty of juice to this tawdry tale, which here is guided by Reggiani, who in the backseat of a luxury sedan traversing the streets of Milan, confesses, “I grew up among beautiful things.” That swanky childhood came courtesy of her mother’s marriage to successful entrepreneur Ferdinando Reggiani, and instilled in her a love of the high life. Her beauty and charm, meanwhile, made her a desirable socialite—“like a mini Liz Taylor,” says one friend—and she subsequently caught the eye of Gucci, who was just the sort of man (handsome, rich, important) she was looking to snag.
A 500-person wedding later (in 1972) and they were an international power couple, much to the chagrin of Gucci’s father (who didn’t attend his son’s nuptials). Nonetheless, as Lady Gucci elucidates, Reggiani was well-liked by Gucci’s uncle Aldo, and for a time, their union was a happy one, producing two daughters and leading to a stint living in a fabulous NYC penthouse apartment. Reggiani waxes nostalgic in Nonkovic’s documentary about her lavish jet-setting ’70s existence, replete with waking up at 11 a.m. and being driven around town in a Bentley, and then attending and/or hosting galas where she was the regal center of attention. At this time, she also befriended Giuseppina “Pina” Auriemma, who in a new interview reveals that Reggiani’s personality was deeply shaped by her tumultuous relationship with a self-centered mother who treated her badly (reportedly, she referred to Reggiani as her “bastard”), thus compelling Reggiani to look for loyal love elsewhere.
Pina is central to this sordid saga, although Nonkovic takes her time explicating the tangled web that would soon ensnare her various characters. Through interviews with not only Reggiani and Pina but also acquaintances, journalists, criminologists, and investigators, she conveys the glitziness of the environment that Reggiani inhabited, albeit with a hastiness that can be a bit frustrating. Part of the appeal of Lady Gucci is the milieu in which she operated—a day-to-day procession of chauffeured cars, private jets, beautiful models, business tycoons, and celebrity elites that would make Robin Leach salivate. That the show doesn’t spend more time establishing the context of its central crime feels like a minor missed opportunity.
Nonetheless, what it does have is Reggiani, sitting in a living room chair speaking to the camera with an unapologetic smugness that’s at once repulsive, humorous, and fascinating. There doesn’t appear to be a shameful bone in the now-72-year-old woman’s body as she describes the shrewd maneuvers that gave her husband control of the family empire, their purchase of a cursed 65-meter sailboat named Creolé, and the 1980s disintegration of their marriage following his literal abandonment of her and their kids for another woman. Reggiani does this with a look of invincibility on her face, and the fact that director Nonkovic routinely punctuates dramatic moments with a zoom into a close-up of the “Black Widow”—her expression oozing cold-blooded haughtiness—only accentuates the proceedings’ comical sensationalism.
Things came to a head when Gucci, flailing at the helm of the company, chose to sell his controlling shares to Bahrain-based Investcorp for $170 million, and then asked for a divorce—all while not visiting Reggiani when she was in the hospital for brain-tumor surgery. “You’re a… a deformed growth. You’re a painful appendix,” Reggiani is heard saying to her spouse in a voicemail message, and slurs were only the start of her plot. Faced with losing her social and financial position should Gucci remarry, Reggiani instead opted to do away with him by hiring Pina to find men to carry out a hit. Lady Gucci details this scheme in amusing fashion, having Pina and Reggiani simultaneously give their own versions of events, with the former claiming she had only intended to scam Reggiani out of cash (while never actually having the murder take place), and the latter stating that she was the duped victim of Pina and her crooks.
Thanks to a tip that materialized nearly two years after Gucci’s death, chief of police Filippo Ninni (who’s also interviewed at length) eventually unraveled Reggiani and Pina’s conspiracy, via a sting known as “Operation Carlos” that involved an undercover agent posing as a South American hitman. Lady Gucci lets both Reggiani and Pina make their case for their own innocence, although one gets the sense that Reggiani doesn’t really buy what she’s selling. Her egomania is the veritable star of this show, so monumental and unflappable that it wasn’t even dented by her conviction, which earned her 26 years behind bars. “It was great. I wish I was still in San Vittore,” she says about jail, as interviewees report that she received first-class prison treatment that made her stay akin to a spa vacation.
Reggiani’s attitude and conduct feel like something out of a florid gangster film, which goes a long way toward explaining why her story continues to resonate—and is primed to be a lavish Hollywood project headlined by one of the world’s biggest music stars. Lady Gucci is far too formally straightforward to become anything close to a global smash. Yet what it lacks in stylistic flair, it makes up for via Reggiani herself. Living proof that the rich and powerful rarely suffer fatal criminal-justice blows (even when they’re found guilty of heinous crimes), she’s a tabloid-ready figure whose defiant lack of remorse makes her a mesmerizingly grotesque monster to behold.